Knights survive in battle with Warwick

By on December 27, 2017
Warwick senior forward Bryan Rottkamp (right) takes the ball inside against Lebanon in last Wednesday’s game. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

Warwick senior forward Bryan Rottkamp (right) takes the ball inside against Lebanon in last Wednesday’s game. Photo by Preston Whitcraft

If Warwick coach Chris Christensen had the final minute of last Friday’s game to do over again, he wouldn’t change the strategy.

Tied 36-all against Hempfield, the Warriors allowed the Black Knights to stretch the floor and hold the ball for one shot.

They liked their chances to send the game to OT.

Finally, the clock ticked toward the final seconds and Hempfield star Ryan Moffatt got the ball with Warwick defenders all over him. He momentarily lost possession, but regained it, and buried a mid-range J at the buzzer, lifting the Knights to a 38-36 win over the Warriors in a Section One battle in Lititz.

“They’re really good when you extend out and all night, we packed it in,” Christensen said. “It’s not like they got a good shot off. (Moffatt) fumbled the ball on the ground, turned around and knocked down a shot. He’s just that good of a player. We did exactly what we wanted to defensively and he made a tough shot. If we had to do it again, I’d do the same thing.”

The Warwick boys (1-3 L-L, 2-5 overall) overcame a five-point deficit at the half to go up by as many as seven, 34-27, early in the fourth. But Moffatt scored all 11 of Hempfield’s points in the final stanza, helping the first-place Black Knights rally and improve to a perfect 7-0 overall (4-0 L-L).

“Any road game in Section One is not a given,” said Hempfield coach Danny Walck, who previously coached Warwick from 2002-07. “We’re still coaching teenagers, and learning how to keep your composure and how to play together is a tall task. It’s bittersweet because I have so much respect for Warwick and the Lititz community. I’m happy that we won, but I also feel bad for those kids and that coaching staff because we’ve all been there.”

Shooting just 3-of-10 from the floor in the opening quarter, Warwick fell behind 14-6 after one to the Knights, who capitalized in transition on six Warrior turnovers. Moffatt scored six in the first, David Martin-Robinson (10 points) and Eli Washington each scored four points for the Knights, who shot 7-of-14 from the floor in the opening eight minutes.

Clayton Mohler gave the WHS boys a spark off the bench with six rebounds and a trey with 5:20 left in the half, which cut Hempfield’s lead to 16-11, and then after Martin-Robinson knocked down a jumper, Bryan Rottkamp, who led the Warriors with 10 points, scored inside, making it 20-15 at the break.

That was well under the pace that the Black Knights had two nights earlier in a 67-36 thrashing of Manheim Township.

“I thought our defense was great,” Christensen said. “We were down five and our goal was to get to the second half and have an opportunity. We came out in the third, which has been our weakest quarter all year, and jumped on them and had a good lead going in (to the fourth) and it was just one of those things at the end.”

After Hempfield’s Anthony Alston hit the first of two free throws to put the Knights up 21-15 early in the third, Warwick answered with a 12-2 run. Rottkamp sank two foul shots, Colby Martin buried a foul line jumper, Carter Forney scored on a runner, and then Martin connected from beyond the arc to give the Warriors their first lead, 24-21, with 5:06 left in the quarter.

Martin-Robinson’s reverse layup got the Knights within one, 24-23, but then Colby Martin drained another ‘three’ to put Warwick up 27-23. Martin finished with all eight of his points in the third for the Warriors.

“(Colby and I) talked before we went out (at half), I said, ‘You’ve got to knock these down,’” Christensen said. “He struggled to knock ‘em down in the first half and they were giving him a little cushion, which I don’t know if it caught him off guard because other teams usually get up on him. So in the second half, he started to let them fly and he was knocking them down.”

Moffatt and Martin-Robinson dropped in back-to-back layups for the Knights, but Trysten George scored on a drive and then Ryan Shirk buried a 3-pointer, giving Warwick a 32-27 lead after three. More importantly for George, he held Moffatt to just two points in the quarter.

“Trysten George was unreal,” Christensen said. “I mean, he was one-on-one with that guy (Moffatt). He’s the best player in the League, and Trysten has been talking about it for weeks that he wanted that task and I just told him I’m proud of him for the way he battled.”

It was still a seven-point Warrior lead, 36-29, when Rottkamp sank two free throws with 3:21 left, but back-to-back Warwick turnovers led to inside buckets by Moffatt at the other end. All told, the Warriors committed 13 turnovers in the game.

From there, the WHS boys missed the front end of back-to-back 1-and-1’s, and in between, Moffatt converted a three-point play with 1:35 remaining in the game to pull the Black Knights even, 36-all.

“(Warwick) played a great game and I thought we had great composure in the last four minutes,” Walck said.

That composure was beneficial in the final minute, when Hempfield executed to pull out the win. Moffatt, in particular, showed a lot of poise.

“The young man is special in so many ways,” Walck said of Moffatt. “He’s worked hard at it, but he’s an outstanding student-athlete. I’m privileged to be his coach.”

Christensen would be quick to say that his own share of special players.

“As we went through (shaking hands post-game), coach Walck said, ‘You guys deserved to win the game.’ But there’s no moral victories there,” Christensen said. “The good part is that’s the best team in the District. I mean, they are. They’re undefeated and you come out here and you play them to the point where you really should win the game. I think we proved to ourselves that anybody we play, it’s game on. I said (to the players), ‘There’s no reason to get down about this.’ Hopefully, it gives us a little spark going forward.”

*****

Last Wednesday, Dec. 20, Joey McCracken scored 16 points to lead three Warwick players in double figures, helping his team rally for a 58-51 win over Lebanon in a Section One game in Lititz. Ryan Shirk and Colby Martin chipped in with 13 and 11 points, respectively.

The Warriors led 12-4 after one, but the Cedars — paced by Luis Aquino-Rios with 18 points and Sincere Scott with 17 — came back and took a 36-28 lead heading to the fourth.

Saving their best for last, however, the Warwick boys outscored Lebanon 30-15 down the stretch to claim the win. For the game, Warwick was 20-of-31 at the free throw line.

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