Black Knights stun Warwick in OT

By on January 28, 2015
 Warwick senior Jordan Cipalla, who scored six points vs. McCaskey last Thursday, takes the ball inside against a Red Tornado defender. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Warwick senior Jordan Cipalla, who scored six points vs. McCaskey last Thursday, takes the ball inside against a Red Tornado defender. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

Jordan Hagel hit a number of big shots on Tuesday night for Hempfield, but none more clutch than his ‘three’ with just 22.3 seconds remaining.

That cut a five-point Black Knight deficit against Warwick to two and changed the game.

If he misses, the Warriors were in position to grab the rebound and potentially seal a key win over their Section One rivals.

Instead, the Hempfield boys eventually sent the game to OT and ultimately delivered a heart-breaking blow to Warwick, pulling out a hard-fought 61-56 victory in Landisville.

“It’s a sting we haven’t felt for awhile,” said Warwick coach Jeff Landis, whose team saw its six-game winning streak snapped. “So I think practice (Wednesday) will be spirited. This is a good group &tstr; they’ll bounce back. It’s hard to swallow when you had it and you just kinda let it get away.”

Dylan Bleacher, who led the Knights with 22 in their 63-56 win over Warwick on Jan. 2, was unavailable, but Hagel led all scorers with 21 and Connor Moffatt added 15.

While Hempfield (11-3 L-L, 14-6 overall) remained in the Section One playoff race, one game behind second-place McCaskey (12-2 L-L), the loss eliminated Warwick (10-4 L-L, 13-7 overall) from the League picture.

Still, the Warriors entered the game 11th in the latest District Three Quad-A power ratings. They have two games remaining in the regular season &tstr; home against Section One leader Cedar Crest (13-1 L-L) on Friday and at Manheim Township next Tuesday, Feb. 3.

“We’re worried about us,” Landis said. “We’ve put ourselves in a pretty good spot. Tonight we could have moved into the top nine (in the District ratings), but we didn’t get it, so we’ve got to go back at it tomorrow.”

Nate Miller paced the Warriors with 18 points and eight rebounds, while James Willis added 15. Miller was 9-of-10 at the foul line, helping Warwick shoot 18-of-23 from the stripe overall.

Leading 36-32 after three, Warwick was still clinging to a 46-41 edge with 2:12 left.

But after Hagel nailed his clutch ‘three,’ Warwick turned the ball over on an inbounds play and Hempfield’s Josiah Mooney sank a layup with just six seconds to go pull the Knights even, 49-49.

“We shot the ball fairly well from the line &tstr; we just had one or two too many turnovers,” Landis said.

In the OT, the Black Knights outscored Warwick 12-7 to get the victory.

“I give Hempfield credit for making winning plays,” Landis said. “They’re very well coached and they did what they had to do. But I didn’t think our kids let up at all. They kept grinding.”

*****

Last Friday night, James Willis knew as soon as the ball left his hands that his shot was money.

“I was feeling it, so I let it loose,” the Warwick senior forward/guard said.

His three-pointer from the top of the key with just 1:31 remaining not only tied McCaskey at 41-all, but brought the fans in Warwick’s gym to their feet.

It was a key shot in what turned out to be a huge 44-43 upset of McCaskey, the fourth-ranked District Three Quad-A team entering action.

“It’s a big win,” Landis acknowledged, “but we’ve been taking it one game at a time since Cedar Crest really cleaned our clocks. So if we want to get to where we want to get to, we don’t have any wiggle room anymore.”

Nor did they have any wiggle room against the Red Tornado. With the score still tied 41-all in the final minute, the Warwick boys ran the clock down inside 10 seconds and senior Jordan Cipalla sank two free throws to put the Warriors up 43-41.

Following a McCaskey miss, WHS senior Damian Soto, who finished with a team-high 11 points, was fouled with :1.2 left, but a couple of Warwick’s bench players prematurely celebrated by running onto the court. Soto converted 1-of-2 from the line, but then Tornado star Kobe Gantz buried two technical free throws and McCaskey set up for an inbounds play at half-court. Gantz led all scorers with 13 points and Kyaire Bynum added 10.

“We said a prayer,” Landis quipped. “Unfortunately, we thought the game was over and got too far out on the court. I think the refs did the right thing (calling the technical).”

Ultimately, La’Detrius Sibley’s shot from the right corner at the buzzer went off the front of the rim and Warwick’s student section stormed the floor celebrating the Warriors’ first win over the Red Tornado since 2010, a span covering nine McCaskey wins.

“It’s great,” said Willis, who finished with nine points in the win. “I don’t remember the last time we beat McCaskey, so this is a big win for us.”

“They outplayed us,” McCaskey coach Steve Powell said. “They wanted it more.”

With the victory, Warwick (10-3 L-L, 13-6 overall) climbed to 11th in the latest District Three Quad-A power ratings and tightened the logjam in the Section One standings.

“(Saturday)’s going to be a hard practice,” Landis remarked. “We’ll celebrate tonight, but tomorrow we’re going to get after it because we have Hempfield on Tuesday.”

Pace of play against McCaskey was important for the Warriors, who knew they couldn’t get into a track meet with McCaskey again, like they did in a 76-58 loss to the Red Tornado in December.

“(The game plan) was to get seven to 10 passes before we shot unless we could get to the basket and make a layup,” Landis said. “We told them at halftime, ‘We’re not going to vary from what we’re doing. If they get up nine, stay with it.’ (McCaskey) did get up nine, but we didn’t overreact and I give the kids a lot of credit for that.”

Indeed, when Kyaire Bynum hit a pair of foul shots with 6:57 left in the third quarter, the Tornado went up 28-19. Quickly, however, Soto and Nate Miller answered with back-to-back treys and Warwick put together an 8-0 run, capped by two inside buckets from Grant Zimmerman to give the Warriors a 29-28 edge with 4:34 left in the third.

In a quarter of streaks, Bynum led the Tornado on an 8-0 run, and Soto’s triple cut Warwick’s deficit to 37-32 heading to the fourth.

In the final eight minutes, Willis became a serious force for the Warriors. His drive with 6:51 left cut McCaskey’s lead to 37-36. More than that, he grabbed seven of his 11 rebounds down the stretch.

“It’s just heart,” Landis said. “I just said we’ve got to own the boards in the second half and I thought James was a big factor in that. Nate (Miller) averages over 10 rebounds a game, so sometimes I think we relax just assuming Nate’s going to get it.”

Bynum hit McCaskey’s only fourth-quarter field goal to make it 41-36, then Cipalla answered with a ‘J’ and Willis nailed his game-tying ‘three.’

What followed was a crazy finish that the Warriors will remember a long time.

Asked if McCaskey might have been overconfident after their big win over Section leader Cedar Crest two nights earlier, Willis said, “I know they’re a great team. I don’t know how they felt, but I know we gave it our all and that’s all that matters. This is our home turf; we have to defend it.”

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