Comets eke past Warwick Engle lifts Warriors past Crest in 3 OT
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
The Warwick boys easily could have folded the tents on Monday night.
Trailing by 12 points against Penn Manor at the half, 19-7, and with starting players Matt Engle, Derrick Shields and K’shawn Mickens at less than 100 percent, it didn’t look good.
But Tyler Morris scored a team-high 14 points to help lead a comeback, and his fourth triple with one minute left in the fourth pulled the Warriors even 35-all. Ultimately, however, Penn Manor’s Landon Alecxih scored with only :02 remaining and the Comets prevailed 37-35 in a Section One game in Millersville. Alecxih led all scorers with 18 points.
"It was a hard game to lose because the first half was so tough — nothing wanted to go in," Warwick coach Jeff Landis said. "But their defense kept them in the game."
The loss dropped Warwick to 10-11 overall (9-6 Section One) heading into their regular-season finale last night (Wednesday) against Section champ Manheim Township. For the Warriors, seeded 19th in the latest power ratings, it’s a must-win game for their District Three Quad-A playoff hopes.
"I’m guessing that if we win on Wednesday, we’ll get in," Landis said. "But if we don’t, we won’t be in. The kids will give it everything they’ve got. They always have."
They did on Monday, even with Penn Manor holding the ball for the last shot.
"We had our hands on it a couple of times and just couldn’t come up with it," Landis said.
Eventually, Alecxih scored off an inbounds play to put the Comets back in front. Warwick called a timeout and Shields unleashed a shot from just inside half-court, but Penn Manor was able to hold on for the win.
"I’m not into excuses, but I’m going to defend my kids," Landis said. "Matt Engle could barely move his neck from a blow he took to the head on Saturday, Derrick re-sprained his ankle and was gutting it out and K’shawn had spent all day Sunday (sick) … But they came out in the second half and they were terrific."
While Warwick and Penn Manor decided their game in regulation on Monday night, 32 minutes wasn’t enough to determine a winner last Friday when the Warriors hosted Cedar Crest.
In fact, it wasn’t until Matt Engle scored on a layup with :0.4 remaining in the third overtime that the Warwick boys finally prevailed 70-68 in a Senior Night thriller in Lititz.
All told, Engle scored 12 of his team-high 15 points in OT.
"When they allowed Matt to get the ball, I was thinking we won because he had made winning plays down the stretch," Landis said. "You knew he wasn’t giving it up, he’s been down that road before, and he just said to me once again, ‘I want the ball,’ and it was pretty easy to give him the ball. He made some good decisions."
The Warriors trailed by as many as four points in the first OT, but Derrick Shields hit a layup and then Engle stole the ball, was fouled on the fastbreak and then converted both shots at the foul line to tie it 57-all with :44.0 to go. Killian Klopp, who finished with 13 points for the Falcons, missed a 3-pointer, but Warwick grabbed the rebound, and Engle’s heave from just inside half court with :2.7 remaining was barely short.
"I thought Matt won it at the end of the (first) overtime," Landis recalled. "They executed well. They got the ball there, he took two dribbles (and) it was a long shot, but with :2.7 to go, they got what we wanted."
Crest again led for most of the second OT, as Warwick went just 1-for-5 from the floor. But it was Engle’s 3-pointer with :07 to go which tied it 60-60 to extend the game.
Finally, Tyler Morris’ triple to open the third extra session gave Warwick its first lead of OT, and when Engle sank two free throws, the Warriors led 65-60. But Crest’s Juan Palmores, who led all scorers with 19 points, sparked the Falcons on a 6-0 run which put his squad up 66-65 with :55 remaining.
"Number four (Palmores) was terrific tonight. He really was," Landis said. "I thought as much as we battled back in the overtimes and at the end when we were down, when we got the lead by five in overtime, I thought we really made some poor decisions. Two minutes to go, we don’t need to score and we’re driving and trying to create. I should have done a better job of making sure we brought it out and had them chase us."
With Shields having fouled out late in the second OT, however, Engle again reached into his bag of tricks and converted a three-point to put the Warriors in front 68-66 with :42.2 left. Crest’s Clay Penchard, who added 14 points, responded with a game-tying layup, but Warwick then played for the final shot and Engle’s deuce finally ended it, prompting yet another celebration by the Warriors’ student section.
"We got it done. I’m not so sure we win that game a month and a half ago," Landis said. "These guys had no varsity experience before this year. Now it’s the end of the season, they’ve been out there and they’ve been in that. You’ve seen the fans storm the floor three times. We like to make it interesting."
Engle’s 19 points led five Warwick players in double figures. Morris chipped in 13 points, while Shields, K’shawn Mickens and Colby Weit scored 11 points apiece.
The win was Warwick’s 10th of the season, and it improved their home record in league play to 5-1. Landis credited the pep band and student section for providing a large part of that home-floor advantage. The Warwick cheerleaders had prepared a large sign for Friday’s game with the words, "The Best Student Section In The League."
"The sign says it all," Landis remarked. "The band being here is terrific, the students are into the game and it’s great. That makes a big difference. Hopefully we get to 6-1 (against Manheim Township in Wednesday’s regular-season finale)."
With McCaskey being the only team that has defeated Warwick at home in league play, Cedar Crest was threatening to join that list after using a 16-2 first-quarter run and taking a 16-6 lead on Taylor Steinbauer’s ‘three.’ But Tyler Stief provided a lift for the Warriors off the bench, nailing a triple and scoring seven points in a 9-0 Warwick run to cut the Falcons’ lead to 16-15 with 6:19 left in the half.
"(Tyler) did a great job," Landis said. "He plays so hard defensively. Sometimes we have to slow him down on offense a little bit, but he did a lot of great things tonight. He got to the basket and sparked us at the beginning when we were flat. It’s hard to play a team like Cedar Crest that plays hard … and they’re playing for nothing in terms of they can play loose. We know we need tonight to get into the District playoffs. We need it. It doesn’t guarantee us getting in, but by getting our 10th win, we have three cracks (at 11)."
Morris’ triple tied it 24-24 at the half and then Palmores knocked down a trey at the end of the third to make it 35-all. In the fourth, Mickens nailed a trey and then made the front end of a 1-and-1 to put Warwick up by as much as eight, 49-41, with 4:09 left. Crest, though, rallied and Klopp’s 3-pointer capped a 10-2 run by the Falcons which sent it to OT.
Last Saturday, Morris knocked down four treys and led all scorers with 24 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Warwick boys dropped a 70-63 non-league loss at Octorara.
The Braves, led by Charles Cooper’s team-high 21 points, extended their winning streak to 15 straight games. They opened up a double-digit 36-25 lead at the half by outscoring Warwick 19-12 in the second quarter.
Shields chipped in with 20 points and Mickens added 10 in the losing cause. More WARRIORS, page B-4