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Warwick’s offensive struggles continue in Holiday Tourney
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
At halftime of the Warwick boys showdown against Upper Darby last Thursday night, fans were invited onto the floor to attempt half-court shots for a free pizza.
Matt Engle was forced to heave a half-court prayer of his own with time expiring in the second half.
Warwick’s senior guard wasn’t doing it with a large pepperoni at stake, however. Instead, Engle was looking to somehow pull out a miracle finish for the Warriors.
Unfortunately for the red and black, it didn’t fall and Upper Darby survived for a 38-37 win in the semi-finals of Warwick’s annual Josh Montpetit Memorial Holiday Tournament.
The Warriors led by five, 35-30, as late as 1:18 left in the game, but the Royals outscored the hosts 8-2 down the stretch to punch their ticket to the finals against Lancaster Catholic (a 61-58 winner over Wilson).
"I don’t fault our kids’ effort, but we had it and let it slip away," Warwick coach Jeff Landis remarked. "It was just a lot of little things. We talk about (the fact) that the game doesn’t come down to one play. It comes down to 32 minutes."
Unfortunately for the Warriors, they struggled to play a full 32 minutes against Wilson in the tournament consolation game on Friday night, as Jake Templin scored 10 points to lead a balanced Bulldogs’ attack in a 44-27 victory over the Warwick boys in Lititz. Warwick’s season-high third loss in a row dropped them to 3-6 overall (2-2 league) this season.
Asked if his team was flat against Wilson one night after suffering a one-point loss to Upper Darby, Landis said, "I don’t know if we were flat. I thought we battled for a half. It wasn’t the most energized we’ve been. But we battled for a half."
In its game against Upper Darby, Warwick led 12-4 with 2:27 left in the opening quarter, but then went more than 10 minutes without a field goal until Damian Soto’s layup at the first half buzzer put the Warriors up 15-13 going to the intermission.
"We just couldn’t score. Once again, it’s some layups, some ‘threes’ … right now, we’re a little challenged offensively," Landis said. "We’ll continue to work hard at getting better at that, but we don’t have a lot of time to sulk over this. We come back and play a really good team tomorrow."
Despite their offensive struggles, the Warwick boys twice took a five-point lead in the fourth, the second of those, 35-30, on a three-point play by Engle with 1:18 to go. Engle scored 10 of his game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter.
Following a long jumper by Upper Darby’s Kuity Slanger, back-to-back turnovers by the Warriors resulted in deuces from the Royals’ Beni Toure and James Fisher.
Engle’s drive and layup put Warwick up 37-36 with :16 left, and then Slanger missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with :05 remaining, but the Royals’ senior tipped home a putback for the decisive points.
"They switched to a 1-3-1 and held us scoreless for a long time (in the second quarter)," Landis said. "Yeah, when the ball is not going in, you tend to press. But we had a five-point lead and they turned us over, I think, two possessions in a row. We had a foul shot that was missed that we didn’t even go for the rebound … we thought it was two shots and it was 1-and-1. So a lot of little things in a game that’s that close when no one can really separate from the other team, they cost you."
What proved costly for the Warriors in their loss to Wilson on Friday was falling behind in the early stages of the first quarter by scores of 6-0 and 9-2. Matt Engle scored six of his team-high 10 points in the first quarter and his two free throws with :01 to go in the stanza cut the Dawgs’ lead to 12-6. Then after Colby Weit scored on a putback with 7:25 remaining in the half, the Warriors trailed by just three, 12-9. But Wilson junior Travaun Coad, who finished with eight points, scored back-to-back deuces, including a dunk, in a 9-2 run by the Bulldogs which gave them their biggest lead of the half, 21-11, with 3:56 to go on the clock.
Overall, Warwick shot just 4-for-19 from the field (21 percent) in the opening half and 9-for-34 (26 percent) for the game.
"They’re a tough team to play from behind and once again, we didn’t shoot 30 percent from the field," Landis remarked. "I think right now, we’re trying to do an awful lot with the dribble, which isn’t the greatest way to play. But we just have to get better at the simple things — screening, passing, reading the floor space, reversing it. Right now, we’re not doing a great job with that."
Warwick’s defense held the Bulldogs to nine points in the third and were still within striking distance when Weit nailed a 3-pointer to cut Wilson’s lead to 28-23 with 1:17 remaining in the quarter.
"It should be a game when you give up 44 points," Landis said. "… Defensively, we’re fine. At practice, we devote most of our time on the offensive end because we’re pretty solid defensively. We’re trying to iron things out offensively. I think everything becomes a little easier when you knock shots down and right now, we’re just not doing that on a consistent basis. I mean, we’re even missing some chippies right now."
That continued in the final stanza, as Templin scored five points, including a triple, and the Bulldogs outscored Warwick 14-4 to win going away.
"The message (to the players in the locker room) was sticking together," Landis said. "This is the first time this year I was disappointed. I thought we fought hard to the end. As you saw, Matt Engle made a great steal with 30 seconds to go. Down 19, it’d be real easy for a senior to say, ‘Let’s check out of here,’ but we had a lot of groveling and stuff on the bench. Everyone wants to play, but it’s got to be performance based too. Right now, that’s what we’re trying to go with. If you get the job done, you play more. That’s the way it will be." More WHS BOYS, page B-3