Getting their swagger back
Talking Sports By
Bruce Morgan At the beginning of this month, the questions were inevitable. Even before the new year, a few people started asking me, ‘What is wrong with the Warwick boys basketball team?’
You knew the comparisons were going to start with this year’s team and the 2010-11 squad when they had several key players returning from the group that went to the State playoffs one year earlier, but struggled in the early going with a 3-7 record.
Actually, the similarities are pretty remarkable. Like the Warwick boys team from two winters ago, this year’s Warriors have a veteran senior class. They entered the season with high expectations. And they, too, had a 3-7 record after 10 games.
I’ve got to admit that I thought they were in deep trouble after losing 44-27 to Wilson in the consolation game of their Holiday Tournament. Although they were trailing by just five late in the third quarter, to me, they didn’t seem to have a lot of life in that game.
Lately, though, no one is asking that question. Going into Tuesday’s action, they had won four straight and six of their last seven to pull themselves into a tie with Hempfield and Manheim Township for the second and final L-L playoff berth in Section One. They had climbed the District Three Quad-A power rankings to 21st with an 8-8 record, although that didn’t include Monday’s non-league win over Governor Mifflin.
To me, they are getting their swagger back. They beat previously-unbeaten Elizabethtown last Tuesday, which by itself, might have been considered an upset. Defeating them by 25 points was definitely a shocker. Then on Friday night, they seemed to recapture some of the magic that defined their season last year with buzzer-beating shots and students rushing the floor to celebrate with the players. Yes, Ephrata probably could have clinched the game if they had made some key foul shots late in the fourth quarter, but the Warriors still would have been facing an uphill battle if Tyler Morris didn’t bury a game-tying 3-pointer with 33 seconds left in regulation.
By the way, kudos to the two school’s athletic directors — Warwick’s John Kosydar and Ephrata’s Steve Sweigart (and former Mounts’ A.D. Tommy Long) — for putting together the boys/girls doubleheader. If possible, there should be more such events scheduled like that. What an awesome atmosphere! The game had back-and-forth drama, entertainment value, momentum swings … all in front of a packed house. As a nice touch, the cheerleading squads from both Warwick and Ephrata joined together at center court during halftime of the girls game to perform a dance routine.
Warwick’s big student section was certainly enjoying the 3-pointer that Morris nailed from the left corner in the final minute. I’m not sure it’s any big secret that getting Morris back from an injury has certainly been a big part of the Warriors’ turnaround. There were others who were out sick or injured at times, and coach Jeff Landis has said more than once that getting everybody back healthy, coupled with the extra minutes that role players got early in the season, has been a key.
Certainly, there is a lot of basketball left to be played in the next couple of weeks. But if the Warwick boys, in fact, clinch a league playoff berth and advance to Districts, I would have to think that they will look back on their OT win at Cedar Crest on Jan. 4 as one which helped to turn the tide. Their victory over Elizabethtown is another obvious one.
Let’s face it — if the hole had gotten much deeper for Warwick, the chances of them climbing out of it would have become too great. They found their stride at the right time. Still, nothing is guaranteed. That team in 2010-11 also turned it around in the second half of the season and went 8-4 in their final 12 games, but fell just short of the post-season.
This year’s team still controls its own destiny with games against McCaskey, Cedar Crest, Penn Manor and Manheim Township remaining on the regular-season schedule. Two of those teams (Cedar Crest and Penn Manor) will play in Warwick’s gym. Three (McCaskey, Cedar Crest and Manheim Township) are ranked ahead of the Warriors in the latest District Three Quad-A power rankings.
But what a difference a couple of weeks have made for the Warwick boys. More SWAGGER, page B-3