Warriors clinch L-L playoff berth with win over Lebanon

By on January 16, 2019
Sophomore point guard Joey McCracken passes the ball off to a teammate during Warwick’s win. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Sophomore point guard Joey McCracken passes the ball off to a teammate during Warwick’s win. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Leading by 12 points at the half, Warwick was in the driver’s seat against Lebanon Tuesday night.

But part of coach Chris Christensen’s message to his players at the break was to not let off the pedal.

Previously this season, the Warriors have seen leads evaporate in the second half, as was the case in a Holiday Tournament setback to Garden Spot.

Not this time, however.

The Warwick boys stretched their lead to as many as 22 points on a layup by Kai Cipalla with 4:07 remaining in the final stanza.

And in the end, the Warriors went on to beat Lebanon 53-41 in a Section Two battle in Lititz.

“That’s kinda been our downfall is we’ve had some leads and we’ve come out and given leads back in the third quarter,” Christensen said. “So we stressed to them, ‘Let’s change our history of that a little bit,’ and it was good to see us change that and get better at something we need to work on.”

Their fourth straight victory not only kept the Warriors (8-0 league, 10-5 overall) unbeaten atop Section Two, it also clinched an L-L playoff berth. They are currently three games ahead of E-town () and six ahead of the Cedars (2-6) with five league games remaining.

“We’re excited that we get to play for something right now,” Christensen said. “Our guys are embracing it and rising to the occasion and doing good stuff. As long as we keep doing that and playing hard, good things will keep happening.”

Eight different players scored for Warwick, led by senior guard Colby Martin, who finished with a game-high 13 points.

He buried two of his three treys in the opening quarter, giving Warwick a 10-4 lead, and then after Lebanon came back to go up 12-10 and 14-12 on inside buckets by Jean Carlos Gonzalez Belen, Ryan Shirk’s ‘three’ over the Cedars’ zone D at the buzzer put the Warriors up 15-14 after one.

And it was all Warwick from there.

Back-to-back putbacks by Caleb Schmitz started the Warriors on a 16-5 second-quarter run, and Martin’s steal and layup — his second theft of the period — made it 25-16 with 2:19 left in the half.

“That’s (Colby)’s game — get in passing lanes, get hands on it, and go the other way and finish, and when he does that, it makes us so much better because it’s almost like a four-point swing,” Christensen said.

Meanwhile, Lebanon opened the quarter 0-for-6 from the field before Scottie Porter hit a ‘three,’ but Trysten George, Brock Fassnacht, and Joey McCracken (9 points) accounted for the final six points of the period, making it 31-19, Warwick, at the half.

Conor Adams (8 points) then knocked down a pair of treys for Warwick in the third, including a buzzer-beater, to stretch the advantage to 49-30 going to the fourth, and it was never close down the stretch.

***

For multiple reasons, Saturday’s game against Muhlenberg was important for the Warwick boys.

Not the least of those was the chance to improve their status in the District Three 6A power ratings.

Furthermore, Warwick was also completing a demanding stretch of three road games in five days.

So when Warwick capped a perfect 3-for-3 week by beating the Muhls 67-58 in the L-L/Berks Showcase at Garden Spot High School, coach Chris Christensen was understandably pleased.

“This was huge,” Warwick’s coach said. “(Playing) on the road is tough. And no matter who you play, getting wins on the road in the league or out of league is really important.”

While improving to 9-5 overall, the Section Two-leading Warriors (7-0 L-L) also moved up to 13th in the District power ratings. Muhlenberg (9-4) is currently 7th in the District Three 5A field.

Sophomore point guard Joey McCracken scored a game-high 22 points to lead three Warwick players in double figures, as the red-and-black outscored Muhlenberg 27-22 in the fourth to seal it.

Brock Fassnacht and Colby Martin added 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Muhlenberg was led by Mikai Washington, who hit four of the Muhls’ 10 treys and finished with 20 points. Nelson Colon chipped in with 12.

“We finally started making some shots (in the fourth),” Christensen said. “I thought our defense was pretty good the whole game. All those ‘threes’ they threw in, that’s how they play. On film, they do that all game. They really just weren’t on in the beginning and I thought our guys were doing a good job contesting. I said, ‘They can’t make them all,’ and then we were just fortunate at the end, we did a really good job making foul shots.”

Three foul shots by Muhlenberg’s Jacob Stoudt cut his team’s deficit to one, 26-25, at the half, and then Jonte Simmons’ layup put the Muhls’ in front, 27-26, with 7:36 left in the third.

But Warwick answered with a 8-3 run, capped by Caleb Schmitz’s layup and a three-point play by McCracken to go up 34-30 at the 5:21 mark.

Washington’s floater pulled the Muhls’ even, 36-36, with 1:28 remaining in the third, and then Conor Adams’ layup and two free throws by Ryan Shirk in the final 48 seconds made it 40-36 and gave the Warriors a lead they never lost.

Muhlenberg climbed back within one, 40-39, early in the fourth on a ‘three’ by Tyler Kipp, and the Muhls were still within 46-42 when Caidan Iaccarino connected from downtown with 4:52 left.

At that point, though, Fassnacht’s layup ignited a 10-1 run for the Warriors, who took a commanding 56-43 lead with 2:29 left. Martin buried two foul shots, then a putback, Kai Cipalla converted on a fastbreak and Fassnacht capped it with a layup.

In all, Warwick shot 6-of-10 from the field in the fourth and held a 11-5 rebounding edge.

“Colby did a really good job (in that stretch),” Christensen said. “Those were some tough buckets and we’ve been harping on him, ‘Don’t just be a shooter. Get in there and rebound.’ And I thought he did a really good job. He did a good job (Friday) night too (in a 71-53 win over CV). If we can get that type of stuff from him and the rebounding and the putbacks, that’s only going to help us down the road.”

Still leading by 10 points, 56-46, after the Muhls’ Washington hit a ‘three,’ the Warriors’ went an impressive 11-of-12 from the foul line in the final 1:38 — behind Fassnacht, McCracken, and Shirk — to put it in the books.

“I expressed to them the importance of making foul shots and how good of a job we did,” Christensen said.

***

Last Friday night, ten different players scored for the Warriors, who took a commanding 45-20 halftime lead and never looked back on their way to a 71-53 Section Two win at Conestoga Valley.

Shirk led all scorers with 16 points, Martin helped out with 12 and McCracken had 10 points to lead the Warwick boys, who outscored the Buckskins 24-9 in the opening quarter.

Will Stone paced the Bucks with 11 points.

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