Crusaders hold off Warwick in Holiday Tourney opener

By on December 28, 2011

By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor bmorgan.eph@lnpnews.com, Staff Writer

If you didn’t know better, you might have thought Warwick boys basketball coach Jeff Landis was talking football with his players during a team meeting on Tuesday morning.

His topic of discussion?

Time of possession.

"You might think it’s a football statistic," Landis said, "but when you play a team like Catholic High that’s very skilled and is very disciplined, you’ve got to make sure you’re not playing defense for 45 seconds and then coming down and playing offense for 10."

Unfortunately for the Warriors, however, they got into that mindset at times on Tuesday night while shooting 16-of-47 from the field.

Nevertheless, they battled back from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit and had the ball with an opportunity to tie or pull ahead in the final 10 seconds. But a Warrior turnover and an offensive rebound by Catholic forward Omar Lopez in the late stages of the game sealed a 46-44 win by the Crusaders in the opening round of the 22nd annual Warwick Boys Holiday Tournament in Lititz. The tourney is sponsored by the Joshua S. Montpetit Foundation.

"Give Catholic credit," Landis said. "They know winning and we’re still trying to familiarize ourselves with that right now with this group. They won a lot at the JV level. This is another step now and a game like this is good for us down the road. If you can compete with Catholic, you can compete with anyone."

The loss dropped Warwick to 3-4 overall and put them in Wednesday’s consolation game vs. Wilson, a 55-49 loser to Trinity. Catholic, meanwhile, improved to 6-1 and prepared to face the Shamrocks in the finals.

"Trinity is very, very good," Crusaders’ boss Joe Klazas said. "They’re very disciplined, very fundamental. Coach (Larry) Kostelac has been there for a very long time and he runs a very disciplined system. They’re physical, they play in the Mid-Penn League which is always very challenging, so they’re always very well prepared. So we’ll have to play extremely well to have a chance to win."

Klazas thought that his squad played well at times against Warwick on Tuesday. In other spots, particularly during a crucial spot or two in the fourth quarter, he believed that they had some defensive breakdowns.

"We’ve talked how important it is to do a lot of the little things and at times, we didn’t do that and allowed them to come back in the game," Klazas said. "But a lot of credit goes to Warwick. Jeff does a great job with those kids. They play extremely hard and I told them at a timeout, ‘They’re certainly not going to quit.’"

Quit they did not, even after Catholic senior Jose Jiminez buried a 3-pointer with 5:22 left which gave the Crusaders their biggest lead of the night, 41-32.

The Warriors answered with an 8-2 run, and Matt Engle’s triple, followed by a steal and fastbreak layup by Derrick Shields with just 1:18 cut the Crusaders’ lead to 43-40 and prompted Klazas to call a timeout. Shields and K’shawn Mickens paced Warwick with 15 and 11 points, respectively.

Mickens also had a couple of steals during the night as well, including a strip of Catholic senior guard Bryan Rivera with 1:05 to go, but the Crusaders got the ball right back and then Rivera knocked down both ends of a 1-and-1 with :36.7 left to make it 45-40.

It wasn’t over, though, and a free throw by Engle and a triple by Shields got Warwick within one, 45-44, with :20 remaining. On Catholic’s next possession, Rivera, who shared game-high scoring honors with 15 points, made the front end of a 1-and-1, but missed the second, and Warwick’s Tyler Morris grabbed his team-leading 10th rebound. With that, Warwick headed to the other end of the floor trailing by just two, where Shields was whistled for a traveling call with :5.9 left.

"They called us for a travel at the end and it’s probably the correct call," Landis said. "But that’s how we got back in it was attacking the basket … The whistle was about five seconds late which really kinda got me excited. We were setting up for a drive and kick there and maybe you take one shot at the buzzer and you either go home with a win or … But I do think it was the right call."

Yet, the Warriors still had a glimmer of hope when Jiminez missed two foul shots with :4.0 remaining, but Lopez grabbed the board and that was the game.

"Again, we remind kids they have to play for 32 minutes," Klazas said, "and when you a team like Warwick as well coached as they are, they’re not going to quit."

The Crusaders certainly came to play in the opening quarter, jumping out to early leads of 7-1 and 12-5. Capitalizing on their quickness to drive and kick the ball to open teammates for layups, Rivera and Eric Goldbach combined for 10 points in the opening stanza to lead the Crusaders to a 15-10 advantage after the first eight minutes. Goldbach finished with nine points and Rivera scored 10 of his 15 points in the opening half.

"We don’t have a lot of size this year, but we feel we do have some quickness," Klazas said, "so that’s something we’ve worked on is try to attack and get to the middle and make sure we get our shooters to the right spots. so we do a pretty good job of that."

After shooting a woeful 3-for-12 in the first quarter, they got themselves on track in the second. Tyler Stief’s triple tied it 15-all with 6:19 left in the half and then Shield’s layup gave Warwick its first lead, 25-24, with 2:12 to go in the stanza. Stief and Shields combined for 13 points in the quarter for Warwick.

"I thought when we were good in the second quarter, we didn’t settle for ‘threes,’" Landis said. "We got to the basket."

But Patrick Kenney answered with a ‘three’ for Lancaster Catholic and Robbie Rowe made one of two freebies to put the Crusaders back in the lead 28-25 at the break.

Led by Morris and Colby Weit (seven rebounds), the Warriors built a 36-28 advantage in the rebounding department. But they shot 2-for-11 from the floor in the third, and Lopez’s layup put Catholic in front 36-30 going to the final stanza. Warwick also went only 6-of-14 at the foul line for the game.

"I think in the third quarter, we went into that rut where we weren’t scoring again and we just continued to jack shots up as opposed to getting to the basket," Landis said.

The Crusaders stretched that lead to nine early in the fourth, and then Warwick rallied, but it wasn’t meant to be for the Warriors.

"We’re 3-4 right now," Landis said, "but our losses are to the Section Four champ (Catholic) in all likelihood, the team people think is going to win Section Three (Lampeter-Strasburg), the team people think is going to win Section Two (Elizabethtown) and Berks Catholic, who’s third in the State. So it’s not good enough, but these kids know they’re getting better and if you can compete with Catholic, you can compete with anyone."

Last Thursday, Dec. 22, the Warriors went into the Christmas break with a 56-44 loss at Elizabethtown in a Section One-Two crossover game. Shields finished with 15 points to lead the Warriors in a losing cause. More WARRIORS, page B-6