K’shawn KO’s the Mules Warwick, though, falls to the Cedars
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
When Tyler Morris’ 3-pointer first left his hands on Monday night, it looked to have a good chance of finding the net.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, his shot in the final seconds of a Section One-Two crossover game against Lebanon rimmed out and the host Cedars held on to deal Warwick a tough 60-58 loss.
The setback dropped the Warwick boys to 6-4 in league play (7-8 overall), two games off the pace behind second-place McCaskey (8-2) for the second and final L-L League playoff berth in the Section One standings.
It also was a disappointing blow in their chase to qualify for the District Three Quad-A playoffs. Entering Monday’s action, they were seeded 16th in the rankings.
"We had opportunities — we just didn’t get it done," Landis said. "It kinda hurts because in the situation we’re in with our non-league schedule, not only does it hurt us for leagues, but in Districts. Our overall record is not an indicator of how good we are, I don’t believe, anyhow. I think you’ve got to get 11 wins to make it (to Districts)."
The Warriors led 46-41 after three quarters and they still maintained a five-point advantage with just over 2:00 remaining following a bucket by junior guard Matt Engle, who scored 13 points to lead four Warwick players in double figures.
"Matt Engle had a great fourth quarter," Warrior coach Jeff Landis said.
But Josh Lopez’s deep three-pointer made it a two-point game. Lopez led all scorers with 18 points, and the Cedars eventually regained their first lead since going up 2-0 in the first quarter and junior Drey Murray’s three-point play put Lebanon up four with :45 left.
Engle responded with a three-point play for the Warriors, and then Lebanon junior Josh Spaulding cashed in the second of two free throws with :18 to go to put the Cedars up 60-58.
"Matt (Engle) had said, ‘I want the ball,’ which is good. He had made a lot of plays," Landis said.
Engle drove through the lane, drew a double team and kicked the ball to Morris, who was open beyond the arc with :03 remaining.
"(Tyler) got a great shot off and it just missed — it was in and out," Landis said. "It was right in front of our bench, and when it went up, I thought we had won."
Derrick Shields finished with 12 points for the Warriors, K’shawn Mickens added 11 and Morris chipped in with 10 points.
"I thought we played really well for about 28 minutes," Landis said, "and then when they pressured us, we sped up a little bit. But some kids do some good things. Tyler Morris and Tyler Stief and Matt Engle really got to the basket well … The great thing about this group is, they came into the locker room and I told Matt and Tyler both, they made a great play. Tyler leads us in ‘threes’ this year and he shot it with confidence and it was a good shot. But Matt said, ‘I should have made a better pass,’ and Tyler said, ‘I should have made a better shot.’ No one is pointing fingers. They take accountability for what goes on out there."
With his performance against Lebanon, Mickens has now scored 45 points in his past three games, including 18 in the Warriors’ 44-41 win over Solanco last Friday.
The junior guard had a hot hand in the game’s final 2:26 with Warwick trailing by six, 39-33, as he scored all of his team’s points in a game-ending 11-2 run. Of Mickens’ three treys in that stretch, his biggest was a buzzer-beater from just inside half-court which snapped a 41-41 tie and lifted Warwick to the win.
"(Last) Tuesday night (in a 53-50 loss to Township), we led 26 of the 32 minutes, maybe," Landis said, "(but) Township won that game. They just made winning plays. Tonight, we trailed most of the game. We were not good. But K’shawn made winning plays down the stretch. That’s the beauty of high school sports. You don’t have to be the best that night. You just have to find a way. And all of them, they found a way tonight."
Sporting a black headband covering seven staples to close a cut in his head sustained in Warwick’s recent win over Penn Manor, Mickens finished 7-of-14 from the field.
"(K’shawn) might have to wear that (headband) the rest of the year even when the staples come out. He’s been shooting the ball real well with it," Landis joked.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, however, they weren’t shooting real well as a team against the Mules’ zone defense through three quarters. Warwick was just 8-for-29 (28 percent) in the first half while going into the break trailing 20-18, and 12-for-38 (32 percent) through 24 minutes.
"(K’shawn) is really starting to shoot the ball well and it’s contagious, just like when you’re missing, it becomes contagious," Landis said. "Derrick Shields is one of the best scorers in the league, and it wasn’t going in tonight. He kept battling, he made a couple, he missed a couple, but he was courageous in terms that he was going to keep going. I thought we lost a little bit of our mental toughness tonight at times, griping at the officials and stuff like that."
There was no questioning the toughness of Tyler Morris, however, as he scored 11 points and grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds, leading Warwick to a 35-31 advantage on the boards.
"I told the team at halftime, ‘Tyler Morris has eight rebounds according to our stats. We as a team have 16. We need someone else to help him there,’" Landis said. "He came out for 30 seconds tonight. Thirty seconds."
Morris scored six of his 11 points in the first quarter, and the second of his two ‘threes’ with :28 left in the quarter gave the Warriors a 12-9 lead at period’s end.
Evan Belczyk scored four of his team-high 16 points for Solanco in the second, and then Tyler Constein’s triple tied it 18-18 and Jonathan Temple’s jumper with :53 left in the half gave the Mules a 20-18 advantage which they carried to the locker room.
"We struggled against (Solanco’s zone) from time to time," Landis said. "They watched us play Township and saw the way we shot the ball and thought that would be dangerous. And then they see us out here tonight and we’re struggling to make layups and I thought it was a great move on their part."
Still, neither team led by more than three points through the opening three quarters, and Mickens’ 3-pointer at the end of the third put Warwick in front 28-25.
Then Belczyk scored six of his 16 points in a 14-5 Solanco run to start the fourth, putting the Mules ahead 39-33 with 2:57 to go.
But Mickens buried a triple and then converted a steal into a layup to make it a one-point game with 2:15 remaining. Temple answered with a ‘J,’ but then missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Mickens’ triple with 1:02 left tied it 41-all.
After Constein missed a 3-point attempt, Morris grabbed his 15th and final rebound, leading to a Warwick timeout with :33.5 left.
"We said, ‘We’re getting the last shot,’" Landis said, "with the understanding, as we told the guys taking the floor that (Solanco) has four fouls to give."
The Mules took two of those fouls and then Warwick took another timeout with :3.4 left.
"I looked at K’shawn and said, ‘One dribble and shoot," Landis recalled, "because if you take one dribble and shoot, they might foul you on the shot. But it’s 3.4 (seconds). We’re going to overtime at worse.’"
Mickens followed his coach’s instructions and put up a long-distance 3-pointer from just inside half-court which found the bottom of the net to lift the Warriors to the win.
"I mean, it was deep. It was real deep," Landis chuckled. "But deep is better than not getting a shot off at all. He looked at me like I was crazy and then went out and did it, and I’m not telling you I expected that to go in, but he had a great last four minutes." More WARRIORS, page B-3