Crespo leads Streaks past Warwick in L-L finals

By on February 20, 2019
While facing tenacious defense from Warwick’s Colby Martin (3), Manheim Township guard Tyler Crespo puts up a shot in last Saturday’s Lancaster-Lebanon League championship game. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

While facing tenacious defense from Warwick’s Colby Martin (3), Manheim Township guard Tyler Crespo puts up a shot in last Saturday’s Lancaster-Lebanon League championship game. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

The Warwick boys’ halftime speech was short last Saturday.

And there was good reason the players returned from the locker room with more than five minutes left in the intermission.

“We weren’t shooting the ball well,” Warrior coach Chris Christensen said, “and I wanted them to get out and get shots up.”

Still, even shooting just 27 percent from the field (6-of-22) in the half against a pesky Manheim Township defense, the outcome remained in doubt, with the Blue Streaks leading only 26-22 in the Lancaster-Lebanon League finals.

And with 2:54 left in the third, Caleb Schmitz’s three-point play tied it 34-all.

But then Blue Streak senior guard Tyler Crespo scored eight of his game-high 26 points, including two deep ‘threes,’ in a 10-0 run and Township went on to beat Warwick 69-58 to capture its first-ever L-L League championship in a packed house in Neffsville.

“(Crespo)’s a really good player,” Christensen said, “he did what we thought he could do and it was pretty good.”

As Warwick’s boss told his team afterward, though, they’ve been pretty good as well while winning their first L-L playoff games since 1990 to advance to the finals.

It marked the first time since the 1989-90 season that the Warriors were back in the League championship game.

“I’m proud of them,” Christensen said. “I said, ‘No one even picked you to win your Section, definitely no one picked you to be here, and it’s an accomplishment to be (playing for the L-L title). And when somebody tells you you’re not good enough and doesn’t pick you to be here, and you are able to beat that, you won in my eyes.’”

The Warriors’ (17-7) magical season has included a 75-73 OT win over Township (17-7) back on Dec. 14 in the Blue Streaks’ gym.

Christensen and his staff studied that film as they put together a game plan to try to do it again, and the Warriors were on track when Conor Adams’ base line layup and Brock Fassnacht’s two foul shots cut the Streaks’ lead to 11-10 after one.

Neither team led by more than five in the first half, and Crespo’s layup put Township up 14-10 in the second quarter before Warwick answered with a 6-0 run — on Schmitz’s layup, Colby Martin’s turn-around floater in the lane and Joey McCracken’s two free throws — to give the Warriors their first lead, 16-14, with 4:54 left in the half.

Crespo, though, finished with nine first-half points and Brendan Mellott added seven of his 19 in the opening two quarters, as the Blue Streaks went up 26-22 going into the break.

“I said (in the locker room), ‘If you told me we were going to be in the League finals down four at half, I would’ve signed up for it,’” Christensen said.

A ‘three’ by Ryan Shirk and Trysten George’s layup with 4:48 left in the third put the Warriors up 31-30. McCracken led the Warwick boys with 17 points and Shirk finished with 11.

Township regained the edge on Crespo’s two foul shots and a putback by 6-foot-6 Tyler Vicidomini, making it 34-31, and when Schmitz answered with a three-point play, it was tied, 34-all.

But then the turning point came.

Crespo’s triple with 2:28 left gave the Streaks a lead they never relinquished, then Zach Oldac’s layup, followed by another ‘three’ and a putback by Crespo put the Blue Streaks up 44-34 with just :39 remaining in the third quarter.

“It’s hard to picture a turning point being one to two minutes in a third quarter,” Township coach Matt Johns said, “but I thought (Warwick) was getting some momentum, the game had settled into kinda like a slog-fest and nobody was really able to get any separation. Then just out of nowhere, (Crespo) bangs two ‘threes,’ gets a steal, they’re forced to foul and they’ve got to take a timeout because they could feel it slipping away a little bit.”

“Those two (treys) that I had in the third quarter, I knew they were going in right away. It felt great coming off,” Crespo said. “I’ve just been stressing getting everyone else involved, and once you do that, that’s when everything starts coming to you.”

Three times in the fourth, Warwick got back as close as eight points. Martin’s ‘three’ with 4:06 left cut the deficit to 52-44.

But they could get no closer.

Township’s tenacious D, which limited Warwick to 4-of-15 shooting from beyond the arc, deserved a lot of that credit, taking away space and time from the Warriors’ shooters.

“I thought they played very well and credit to them,” Christensen said. “We just didn’t shoot the ball the best tonight that we’ve shot it this season. But in the past, we’ve found other ways to win. It just didn’t happen today.”

“We drilled (defense) in through practice, especially (Friday), just overall help defense because (Warwick) shoots a lot of ‘threes’ — probably more than us,” Crespo said. “Any time they had a a screen or a dribble hand-off, we had to not only switch, but step out because they can shoot ‘threes.’ Colby can shoot, Shirk can shoot, McCracken can shoot. They call can.”

The Warriors were still within eight, 60-52, after McCracken buried two foul shots with 1:30 left, but Crespo and Mellott combined to go 7-of-8 at the foul line in the final 1:23 to clinch it.

“I told the players just how the seniors and the team as a whole set a new standard for our program,” Christensen said, “and an expectation, and coach (Jeff) Landis was saying there’s fifth and sixth-graders here that see this and want to be you and that’s a cool thing.”

***

In the L-L playoff semi-finals last Thursday, Warwick got key contributions from its bench and pulled away from Section One runner-up Cedar Crest 72-47 at Conestoga Valley High School.

With Colby Martin in early foul trouble, along with Joey McCracken and Ryan Shirk suffering from cramps, Brock Fassnacht (13 points), Conor Adams (7 points), and Kai Cipalla (7 points) combined for 20 points to help lead the way.

“The bench was great, all-around,” Warrior coach Chris Christensen said.

“We got good minutes from our bench, good points, and honestly, that’s what helped us in the first half,” Martin remarked.

A buzzer-beater by Cipalla put Warwick ahead 33-26 at the half, but the Falcons (18-6) were still within four, 38-34, following an inside bucket by Logan Horn with 4:47 remaining in the third.

But then Adams’ drive kicked off a quarter-ending 15-2 run by the Warriors, stretching their lead to 53-36 going to the fourth quarter. Joey McCracken scored eight of his 12 points in the third, including a pair of ‘threes.’

“Our starters coming back in were fresh and I think we just had that extra step in the second half because of (early) foul trouble,” Christensen remarked. “It sounds kinda silly, but foul trouble might have helped us.”

Martin then lit up the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, pouring in four treys and all of his game-high 16 points, as Warwick outscored Cedar Crest 19-11 to break things open.

“When I saw the first one go in, I was feeling it,” Martin said, “so I kept shooting. It felt good.”

“Colby does that in practice pretty much every day,” Christensen said. “so just to see him be able to do it in a game was really good.”

Horn, who averages 19.7 ppg, led Crest with 14 points, but shot just 3-of-10 from the floor.

“Coach gave us a scouting report and we knew we had to stop Horn,” Martin said. “It feels great (going to the L-L finals). We were working all year to get this far and it feels good to get a win like that against a team like that.”

***

Last Wednesday, Feb. 13, the Warriors were back in the L-L League playoffs for the first time since 2007, and their early jitters showed.

Uncharacteristically, the Warwick boys had 10 first-half turnovers and shot just 7-of-22 from the floor while falling behind by as many as 12 points, 25-13, against Section Five champ Lancaster Mennonite (14-10) in the opening two quarters.

“None of us had a post-season basketball game yet in our career, so all of us had a little pre-game jitters,” sophomore guard Joey McCracken said. “But as the game went on, we got rid of them and started to play well.”

Boy, did they.

Warwick eventually pulled even 41-all at the end of three following Conor Adams’ two free throws, and then went back-and-forth against the Blazers in the fourth quarter.

Finally, with the scoreboard knotted at 62-all, McCracken grabbed a rebound, went coast-to-coast and scored on a layup with just :0.2 left to boost the Warriors’ to a thrilling 64-62 win in the L-L quarterfinals in Lititz.

“I know there’s not a lot of time left on the clock,” McCracken recalled thinking, “so I’m just pushing it. It’s tied, so just a shot and whatever happens, happens and it went in.”

“Wow, that was a wild one,” Warrior coach Chris Christensen said. “The best part about it was, it wasn’t going our way the entire game and Joey made an unreal shot. It was an entire game of everybody giving a little something and doing what they do to get us the win.”

It was the Warriors’ first win in the L-L Tourney in nearly three decades, dating back to 1990.

For McCracken, given that history, his game-winning layup topped his list of favorite personal moments in what has been a big sophomore year.

“It’s definitely at the top,” he said. “It’s the first post-season win in awhile for this program, so it means a lot.”

Even bigger than his L-L League single-game record of 530 passing yards in the Warrior football team’s over Wilson in October?

“Those are pretty close together,” McCracken said, “but yeah, this is huge.”

McCracken finished with a team-high 17 points and Brock Fassnacht chipped in with 16 to lead the Warwick boys. Fassnacht scored 10 of his points in the opening half to help keep the Warriors close.

The Blazers’ Elijah Terry led all scorers with 21 points and Elijah Bynum added 17.

With the Warriors trailing 25-19 at the half, McCracken nine points in the third and Conor Adams hit both ends of a 1-and-1 with :13.4 left in the period to pull Warwick even, 41-41.

But back-to-back ‘threes’ by LMH’s Myles Jones and Derrick Burnside just 27 seconds apart gave the Blazers a 56-51 advantage with 4:37 left.

Ryan Shirk (9 points) answered with a key trey to get the Warriors within 56-54, and then Fassnacht’s two foul shots tied it 60-all with :58.3 left.

Jones then hit a floater for Lancaster Mennonite, and McCracken responded with two free throws to tie it again, 62-62, with :34.3 remaining.

As the clock ticked down, Terry’s 3-point attempt missed, and with about :05 left, McCracken corralled the rebound and the rest is history.

“We’ve been in a lot of close games, especially early in the season when we had our Section One crossovers,” Christensen said. “I think being in close games and expecting to win in close games is what helped us today.”

About

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *