Fast start propels Warwick Shields scores 19 in win over Eagles
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
Warwick acted like it didn’t want halftime to arrive on Tuesday night.
The break was barely a couple of minutes old before the players were back on the floor taking their warm-ups for the second half.
You could hardly blame them.
While shooting a sizzling 15-for-30 from the field in the opening two stanzas, and playing a physical defense against three-time defending Section Two champion Cocalico, the Warriors bolted to a commanding 38-18 halftime lead.
It turned out to be too much for the Eagles to overcome, as Warwick improved to 2-0 in league play (3-2 overall) with a 58-35 win in a Section One-Two crossover in Lititz.
Their 58 points represented a single-game high through their first five games, and Warrior coach Jeff Landis acknowledged that it was his team’s best effort of the season.
"Sure," he said. "It’s early, so there’s not a big body of work, but yeah, we were pretty good tonight. Cocalico’s a good team and give our guys some credit. They made it look different tonight. I thought our half-court pressure was outstanding. They had to work for everything and I was very pleased with our effort."
The Eagles, meanwhile, are still looking to find their stride after falling to 0-2 in Section Two (1-4 overall). But they have also faced a brutal schedule in the early going, with losses to Hershey, Cumberland Valley and Manheim Township prior to Tuesday’s defeat. And with Hempfield on tap Thursday, their road doesn’t get any easier before Christmas.
But Cocalico coach Travis Wealand wasn’t making excuses either.
"We’ve had a tough schedule," Wealand acknowledged. "But regardless of that, we’ve got to figure out a way to come together and play better for the full length of the game and do what we do. When we get better at that, doing what we do, then hopefully we can keep taking steps forward."
On Tuesday, Wealand thought his squad just needed to do a better job of matching the Warriors’ physical defensive play. Warwick’s aggressive defense forced 23 Cocalico turnovers, including 13 in the first-half which led to fastbreak layups in transition.
The Warriors also built a 21-19 edge on the boards and senior guard Derrick Shields led all scorers with a career-high 19 points.
"Warwick came out ready to play," Wealand said. "They built an early lead and our guys needed to dig in a little harder to close that lead and we just couldn’t get it done in the first half and it’s hard to play from behind."
Warwick junior forward Tyler Morris scored 10 of his 12 points in the opening stanza, including a pair of 3-pointers. One of those came in the Warriors’ game-opening 11-0 run, and both he and junior guard K’shawn Mickens added a steal and fastbreak layup to help Warwick grab early control.
"That’s our identity," Landis said. "We talked about some nights, we’re probably going to struggle a little bit offensively. But if you can not just get turnovers, but take turnovers and turn them into points … K’shawn is very gifted in the open floor. Him and Derrick both are going to get to the basket and finish. And on top of that, our big guys Colby (Weit) and Tyler can shoot. They can both spread the floor a little bit."
They also provide the Warriors with options on the defensive end of the floor. Entering the game, Joe Becker and Christian Graybill were the Eagles’ two leading scorers, both with 11.0 ppg, but Morris and Shields did a solid job of defending against those two to start the game.
"(Becker) is a shooter," Landis said. "We put Morris on Becker because we figure his length will bother shooters. The kid (Becker) did a good job of getting some shots off, but Tyler is a very unique piece because he can guard big, he can guard small. He’s a nice piece."
Becker finally got Cocalico on the scoreboard with a mid-range jumper with 5:24 left in the opening quarter, and then Mitch Denlinger, who led the Eagles with eight points, knocked down two free throws to make it 13-4 with 3:19 left in the period. But that would be the final time that Cocalico was within single digits. The Eagles shot only 5-for-16 from the floor in the first half, and Becker and Graybill finished with six and five points, respectively.
"Our guys are trained to know what’s a good shot and what’s not a good shot," Wealand said, "and we try to execute our sets so that the guys can get looks in places where they’re comfortable. But tonight, Warwick did a good job of taking that away."
The Warriors also did a good job of keeping their foot to the pedal, ending the first on a 7-2 run, capped by Morris’ 3-pointer, and then coming out in the second on a 16-6 surge, with a leaner by Shields leading to a three-point play which pushed the advantage to 37-12.
Still leading comfortably, 38-18, at the intermission, Warwick kept it brief inside the locker room at halftime.
"We talked about not changing a whole lot," Landis said. "We talked about Cocalico having a lot of pride, and being a three-time defending Section champion, they weren’t going to roll over. And they didn’t … When we were done talking and we brought it in, K’shawn said, ‘It’s 0-0.’ And that shows some leadership. I’m looking for that in kids."
That leadership carried over onto the floor and Warwick avoided a second-half letdown, as Shields scored six points in the third and then the Warriors shot 9-of-12 from the foul line down the stretch to seal it.
Cocalico will now turn its attention to another tough crossover game against Hempfield in its final game before Christmas.
"We just need to focus on ourselves and work on our fundamental things that we need to do so we can be better and compete with the teams that we’re playing," Wealand said. "That’s our schedule and that’s the way it’s dealt and we play that hand and we’ve got to work harder."
The Warriors, too, will look to keep their nose to the grindstone as they face an Elizabethtown team which defeated Penn Manor 66-41 last week.
"We beat a nice team tonight," Landis said. "But what we talked about is, it’s no different than last Tuesday (following a 40-29 loss to Lampeter-Strasburg). We’ve got to take the floor every day in practice to get better. It’s a marathon and the focus is that every day, every play, we’re going to get better. It’s a win, (but) whether it’s by 20 (points) or whether it’s by one, it’s one win."
Last Friday, Morris scored 14 points to lead three Warwick players in double figures, as the Warriors opened league play with a 48-43 victory over Conestoga Valley in a Section One-Two crossover in Witmer.
Matt Engle and Shields each finished with 11 points and Mickens added nine points in Warwick’s balanced attack.
Leading 23-18 at the half, the Warriors saw their lead cut to 32-28 heading to the final stanza. There, Warwick outscored CV 16-15 to seal the win.
The Buckskins were paced by Robbie Cardina’s game-high 20 points and Anthony Brown’s 11 points. More WARRIORS, page B-4