WARSAW – The Warsaw boys basketball team faced a tall order Friday night.
The host Tigers, done in largely by a cold-shooting performance from distance, came up just short in the end in falling 49-48 to Homestead.
Homestead super sophomore Caleb Swanigan, a 6-8 tower of power, proved to be too much for Warsaw to handle. The big time prospect popped in a game-high 24 points and secured 11 rebounds before fouling out with 1:11 left in the game
Warsaw hurt itself with a tough shooting night. The Tigers hit just 7-25 shots from 3-point range. The hosts were also out rebounded 33-20 by a Spartan frontline feature Swanigan and 6-8 junior Dana Batt, who had six caroms. Warsaw’s tallest player checks in at 6-3.
The Tigers, who lost 75-62 at Homestead last season, still had ample opportunities down the stretch to pull out the win. The hosts trailed 45-37 with 2:28 left before junior Rashaan Jackson led a rally with six points in an 11-4 run. A huge Jackson trey from NBA distance with nine seconds to play cut the Homestead lead to 49-48.
Warsaw had one final chance to steal the win in the final seconds. Homestead sophomore Ben Skowronek missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 3.8 seconds left. Jackson grabbed the rebound and got it to Jordan Stookey. Stookey raced up the court, being bumped a couple of times by a Homestead defender, but his final shot attempt did not beat the final horn.
“We just didn’t make shots,” lamented Warsaw coach Doug Ogle. “I can’t feel too bad. We were patient and got good shots for the most part. We just need to make some of those threes.
“We got back in it late and Rashaan Jackson played a lot better tonight than our first two games. Our defensive rebounding was disappointing and I thought we could have been more physical with Swanigan. The combination of those two (Swanigan and Batt) are really hard to deal with, especially for a team like us that is undersized anyway.”
Jackson netted 19 points, 11 in the final quarter, to lead Warsaw. Junior Jake Mangas had eight points for the Tigers, who drop to 1-2. Mangas did miss three free throw attempts in the final 27.8 seconds as the hosts finished just 3-6 from the line in the loss.
The Spartans, who improve to 2-1, trailed just once at 2-0. Homestead led 13-7 after the opening period and 25-19 at halftime. Swanigan and Batt scored the first 23 points of the contest for the Spartans. Homestead led 32-30 after three periods of play. The Spartans hit just 3-15 from distance, but all three in the final quarter, including a huge pair by senior Ryan Cotter. Homestead also got a huge rebound basket by sophomore Tahj Curry off his own miss with 39 seconds to play to make it 49-45.
“We were fortunate to hang on and win,” said Homestead coach Chris Johnson, whose team finished 18-7 last season. “Our young kids found a way to win though and I hope we grow a little bit from this. We played better tonight than our first two games.
“I was proud of how our guys hit shots. We’ve got to hit outside shots and we did in the fourth quarter. Curry had a big putback and Cotter hit two big threes for us. I’m proud of them.
“Everyone knows our bread and butter is to pound it inside to Caleb and Dana. Caleb is a big time player and we need him on the floor and we need him to lead us. His hands and his footwork are phenomenal. He’s been blessed, but he works hard.”
Johnson compared Swanigan, who was being scouted by a member of the Purdue coaching staff Friday night, to former Marion High School and Michigan State star Zach Randolph, the outstanding power forward who now plays for Memphis in the NBA.
“That’s a fair comparison,” remarked Ogle. “Swanigan is really good. He’s really big, his hands are great and he is skilled. I think he has a chance to be an NBA player.”
Warsaw entered the game shooting 39 percent on 3-point tries. The tough night from long range, which included plenty of open looks, had strong shooters Nate Pearl and Stookey combining to go just 1-12 from distance.
Curry had nine points and Batt and Cotter each scored eight for Homestead.
Stookey scored seven points, while juniors Cameron Hoskins and Tim Swanson each had six for the Tigers. Sophomore Paul Marandet had two points for Warsaw, which had just seven turnovers.
Warsaw rolled to a 43-20 win in the junior varsity contest. Kyle Mangas scored 12 points to pace the Tigers. Tyler Packard, Evan Schmidt and Ben Linky each had six points.
Homestead plays at Fort Wayne South Tuesday. Warsaw returns to action Saturday night by hosting Huntington North. The Vikings, who beat Homestead 69-53 on Nov. 27, improved to 3-0 with a 74-41 win at Southwood Friday night.