Stief’s layup wins thriller for Warwick Warriors grab sole possession of second place
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
Tyler Stief got an inbounds pass from teammate Tyler Morris with four seconds left and knew that he had a lane to the basket.
At that point, the Warwick senior guard had two options.
Take the ball to the basket himself, knowing that Hempfield had six team fouls, or dish it off to an open Colby Weit on the post.
Stief decided to keep it and he made no mistake, scoring on a buzzer-beating layup to snap a 39-39 tie and boost the Warriors to a thrilling 41-39 victory over Hempfield in front of a Blue Ridge Cable-11 viewing audience in a Section One barn-burner in Lititz.
"I felt like I could get to the hole the whole game," Stief said, "so I told Coach (Jeff Landis) with a minute left that I wanted the ball and he gave me a chance at the end and I just got lucky enough to get it. Matt Engle set a good screen and got me open."
That capped a season-high 13-point night for Stief. More importantly for the Warriors as a team, their fifth straight win — coupled with Cedar Crest’s 52-39 victory over Manheim Township — left the Warriors in sole possession of the second and final L-L League playoff berth in Section One. The Warriors (8-4 L-L, 10-8 overall), who are 7-1 in their past eight games, now hold a one-game lead over both the Black Knights and Blue Streaks, who are tied for third with 7-5 league records.
"Right before we go out on the court, we just try to remind them of a couple things," Landis said. "We sat down, they looked at me in the eyes, and I said, ‘I don’t have to say a word. You know what’s at stake here. This is as big as it gets.’ It was a great high school basketball game. Maybe not the most exciting in terms of fancy plays and scores and dunks, but it was hard-fought until the end."
Indeed it was, with neither team leading by more than six points the whole way. Although neither Morris nor Matt Engle got in the scoring column in the first half, K’shawn Mickens led a balanced Warwick attack with seven of his nine points, as the Warriors took a 22-19 lead to the locker room. Engle, despite being hobbled by a leg injury, held Black Knights’ leading scorer Drew Johnson to just four points in the half — and eight for the game. In the Knights’ 49-36 win over Warwick in Landisville on Dec. 21, Johnson led all scorers with 19 points.
"(Johnson) is always a concern for anyone that plays Hempfield," Landis remarked. "They’ve got other pieces, but he’s one of the best in the league. We feel pretty confident with Matt matching up on anyone. He made him work for what he got."
The Warriors also feel pretty confident with Mickens, and the senior guard’s reverse layup with 2:45 to go in the third gave Warwick its biggest advantage, 30-25. But the Black Knights scored the final five points of the quarter, capped by a steal and fastbreak layup by Tyrell Wickersham, who led the Knights with 10 points. That tied the score 30-all going to the fourth, where Johnson’s triple with 6:28 left gave the Knights their first lead, 35-34, since the second quarter.
But Stief sank two free throws with 1:57 left to pull the Warriors even 39-39. At that point, Hempfield went to a delay game until Black Knights’ coach Danny Walck called a timeout with 42 seconds remaining. Then with the Knights appearing to hold the ball for the final shot, Mickens stole the ball from Hempfield’s Dylan Bleacher with 27 seconds to go.
"We had a foul to give and I said, ‘We don’t want to let them hold it until eight seconds to go. Get up and take a chance,’" Landis said. "(Mickens) had let Bleacher get to the basket one or two times before that, and I just pulled him over with a minute to go and said, ‘You can do it, I know you can do it,’ and he did. He’s a heck of a defensive player."
After Hempfield committed back-to-back fouls, putting them one away from the bonus, Warwick didn’t get an open look on an inbounds play and burned another timeout.
"Tyler Stief, I thought, had a step (on Johnson defending him)," Landis recalled. "Tyler Morris said, ‘I didn’t see (Tyler) going to the basket, so I didn’t chance it,’ and we had timeouts left. So we said, ‘Run it again and get it to him.’"
Their second attempt, of course, was picture perfect, as Stief hit the game-winning layup and then braced for a celebratory rush onto the floor from the Warriors’ student section.
"That team we played is obviously one of the most well-coached teams in the league," Landis said. "You knew they weren’t going to go anywhere. I think we’ve shown a lot of character over the past three weeks. It had all the makings of a great game and I told my brother (Blue Ridge announcer Ryan Landis) before we came here, ‘The first one to 40 wins.’ I didn’t realize it would be with two seconds to go on the clock."
In addition to Tuesday’s league contest, the Warriors hosted Governor Mifflin in a key non-league game with possible District ramifications Monday night in Lititz.
Trailing 44-43 entering the final quarter, the Warriors surged past the Mustangs, out-scoring them, 19-13 down the stretch to secure a hard-fought 62-57 victory.
Matt Engle scored a game-high 19 points while Chris Devlin added 12 to pace Warwick, which won its fourth-straight game.
This past Friday before a packed house in Ephrata, Warwick showed that grittiness down the stretch and again, it was Engle who fueled it.
After Tyler Morris bombed a three-pointer to tie the game with 33 seconds to go in regulation, Engle took over in the extra session. The senior guard gave the Warriors the lead with a field goal at the 2:58 mark then put it away at the foul line, going 5-for-6 over the final 1:44 to give Warwick a 54-50 victory.
"Matt struggled in the third quarter so we took him out," Landis said. "But we put him back in, he bounced back and made some great plays. If we can get him to the line at the end we are pretty confident he is going to make them."
He did, and Warwick was able to fend off an Ephrata team that played much better than its record (4-12) would suggest.
Warwick led 20-17 at the half and 31-30 after three quarters, but the Mounts refused to wilt in front of the near-capacity crowd. Junior guard Brady Sipe led the way for Ephrata down the stretch with 10 of his 13 points in the fourth.
Sipe nailed a jumper just a minute into the period to give the Mounts the lead at 32-31. But a 6-0 spurt by the Warriors gave them a 37-32 advantage with 4:26 to play.
However, Sipe drained a trey the next trip down the court to cut the deficit to two (37-35) before the teams traded scores to make it 39-37 Warwick with 3:13 to go.
It stayed that way until the 1:56 mark when Sipe nailed another three to give the Mounts a one-point lead (40-39). Then, Ephrata’s Aaron Hubbard’s steal led to a Sipe lay-up with 1:34 remaining and the Mounts had a little breathing room, up 42-39.
K’shawn Mickens was then off target on a potential game-tying three ball on Warwick’s next possession, and Sipe was eventually sent to the line in a one-and-one situation that could have iced it with 51 seconds to go.
However, Sipe missed the foul shot and the Warriors went down looking for the equalizer. After working the ball around, Morris found himself alone near the left corner. The senior raised up and drained the clutch three-pointer to tie the game at 42-42 and send the game into the OT.
"We had a two-point lead with two minutes to go, and we had three possessions where we shot threes and we probably could have gotten to the basket," Landis said. "But it’s kind of who we are, and it allowed Morris to take that shot down three to tie it up."
Ephrata Coach Jason Coletti said his team made a fundamental mistake in leaving the Warwick senior open at such a critical time in the game.
"Up three with (less than a minute) to go, and you need one stop, you got to guard the three-point line," he said. "We left (Morris) wide open and he nailed it. That just can’t happen there."
It did, and the Warriors gutted it out in the OT thanks to Engle.
Engle and Morris both scored 13 points to lead Warwick while Mickens chipped in with 10 in the win.
The Warriors held the Mounts’ Evan Radcliffe, who was averaging more than 20 point a game through the last seven contests, to just nine points. Hubbard led all scorers with 19 to go along with Sipe’s 13 for Ephrata.
Staff writer Todd Ruth contributed to this story. More WARRIORS, page B-4