After playing her freshman year at Kishwaukee College in Malta, Tatiana Wartenbe wanted to be close to home in her sophomore year.
So the Granite City graduate joined the Southwestern Illinois College women’s basketball team. She became a valuable player for the Blue Storm, finishing second on the team in scoring at 10.5 points per game.
“I like it here,” Wartenbe said. “I like the coaching staff and I like what we do.”
Now, Wartenbe has to figure out where she’s going to play basketball for the next two years. Wartenbe has been playing basketball since fifth grade.
“I’m pretty sure I’m going to play basketball,” Wartenbe said. “I just don’t know where, but my coach (Mike Juenger) said he’s been getting emails from Division II colleges.”
Wartenbe played her last game in a SWIC uniform on March 2, when the Blue Storm lost to Rend Lake College 61-53 in an opening round game at the Region 24 Tournament at SWIC. SWIC finished its season at 12-15 after getting off to a 6-1 start.
Rend Lake lost in the quarterfinals to Wabash Valley, which went on to win the regional championship.
On Feb. 28, Wartenbe turned in one of her best performances of the season in SWIC’s regular season finale against Wabash Valley at SWIC. She scored 15 points, including a key 3-pointer late in the second half. But her efforts didn’t help the Blue Storm pull off the win as Wabash Valley won 73-70 in overtime.
“It was really tough,” Wartenbe said. “It was our last game at home and we just wanted to win and we just wanted all of our sophomores to play well and rebound all around.”
Wartenbe, who was one of seven sophomores on this year’s SWIC squad, sent the game to overtime by hitting a 3-pointer with 26.5 seconds left in the second half to tie the game at 64-64.
“It was really big,” Wartenbe said. “I was so excited. I got my teammates pumped up.”
Wartenbe fouled Wabash Valley’s Tyshee Towner with four seconds remaining in regulation. But Towner missed both free throws.
“I was so relieved,” Wartenbe said. “We still had a chance to win the game.”
With Wabash Valley leading 71-70 in overtime, Wartenbe had a chance to give the Blue Storm the lead with 18 seconds left, but her shot bounced off the rim.
Wartenbe said she improved tremendously from SWIC’s last meeting against Wabash Valley on Jan. 24 on the road. The Blue Storm lost 51-36.
“I played horrible,” Wartenbe said. “It wasn’t my game, but I came back with them in this game (on Feb. 28).”
Wartenbe graduated from Granite City in 2013. In her senior year, she earned third-team all-Southwestern Conference honors and helped the Warriors reach the Class 4A regional championship game.
Wartenbe credits former Granite City head coach Raffi Karibian for her outstanding high school basketball career.
“Coach Karibian really worked with me,” Wartenbe said. “He’s been my coach since seventh grade. He really worked with me and tries to make me get confidence in my shot and my playing.”
O’Keefe earns all-conference honors: Southwest Baptist sophomore and Granite City graduate Natalie O’Keefe earned all-Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association honors after placing sixth in the high jump with a jump of 1.70 meters at the indoor conference championship meet on March 1 at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.
O’Keefe, who graduated from Granite City in 2013, also broke the national provisional qualifying mark in the high jump. The national provisional qualifying mark in the high jump in NCAA Division II women’s indoor track and field is 1.65 meters.