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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Indiana Tech forward DeAnn Kauffman scored 24 points in the WHAC Tournament championship game.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018 1:00 am

NAIA Championships

Sophomore picks up slack for Warriors

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

Indiana Tech

What: NAIA Division II Women's Basketball National Tournament, today-Tuesday

Who: No. 3 Indiana Tech vs. No. 6 Bryan (Tenn.)

When: 9:30 a.m. today

Where: Tyson Events Center, Sioux City, Iowa

The Indiana Tech women's basketball team was forced to make adjustments heading into the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Tournament championship after Haley Cook tore her ACL in the semifinal.

That's when sophomore DeAnn Kauffman stepped up, scored 24 points in the championship game for the Warriors.

“I think next year I would have to have this role,” Kauffman said, “so I had to jump into it quicker.

“I had to play for Haley. She's my best friend. It's not fair what happened, so I was just playing for her.

“We're going to have to have more people step up and prepare to come into the game. If they don't normally play, I know it's nationals, we just can't be nervous. We have to go in and play our game.”

Although the Warriors (29-4) lost 72-69 in the WHAC championship to Cornerstone, it gives the team an edge as it opens the NAIA Division II National Championship Tournament today in Sioux City, Iowa, against Bryan (Tennessee) despite playing without their second-leading scorer.

Tip-off is scheduled for 9:30 a.m.

“(Cook's) just a tough kid and, to be honest, she's irreplaceable, not just as a basketball player but as a person,” coach Jessie Biggs said. “She's a voice that those guys hear every day. We have perfectly capable kids, it's just them switching their mindsets from a role player that's passing her the ball to now they have to score for us. The nice thing is that you (had) a week to adjust to work on those things.”

The silver lining for the coach is that Kauffman got the chance to compete in the WHAC final.

“If it was going to happen, I'm glad that she got that experience playing in the conference championship game,” Biggs said, “because now DeAnn knows she can play at that level and that she can be successful.”

Kauffman said there was a sense of normalcy during practice sessions between the WHAC semifinals and finals.

“We didn't make a lot of adjustments,” she said. “We practiced the same as we would otherwise. We had a talk with coach Biggs, us guards, saying how she's usually the loud one in practice so we would have to be OK with being quiet or someone would have to make up for it. We did have that conversation but we just practiced normal.”

Cook, who will travel with the team to Sioux City, is one of three seniors along with top scorer Keanna Gary and Baylee Rinehart. The three have been instrumental in the program's success and development this season.

“I think they finally got that winning instinct of going into every game thinking we're going to win,” Biggs said. “That's something over the last couple years we've really tried to continue to grow. They're out there to win.”

Biggs highlighted the group's toughness.

“They're invaluable,” she said. “They play every single play, they don't take possessions off. That's something you build up over years, and it's nice to have those seniors that play a lot of minutes.”

areichel@jg.net