WARSAW – The Warsaw boys basketball team got scoring punch from a likely source and a pair of not so likely sources Tuesday night.
The host Tigers needed all of those offensive punches in order to deck a very good Elkhart Christian team too.
Senior Jordan Stookey led a late charge as host Warsaw rallied past the Eagles 52-47.
Stookey, Warsaw’s leading scorer, scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the final frame as the Tigers topped the Class 1-A No. 4 Eagles to snap a five-game losing streak.
The duo of sophomore Paul Marandet and freshman Kyle Mangas came up huge with nine points each for the Tigers, who improve to 10-8.
Marandet is averaging 2.9 points-per-game on the season, while Mangas had played in four varsity games prior to Tuesday night and scored five points.
Senior Cory Waycaster popped in a game-high 22 points to pace the Eagles, who see their six-game winning streak stopped. Senior Ryan Kupferschmid had 11 points for the Eagles, who drop to 14-4.
Waycaster, the Eagles’ top scorer at 16.7 ppg., went over the 1,000 point mark for his career in the loss.
Stookey definitely saved his best for last to get his team back on the winning track. The 6-2 guard led a 10-0 run in the final period that turned a 39-36 deficit into a 46-39 lead. Stookey scored eight points in the key 3:27 stretch, including a baseline 3-pointer to start the surge, and dished a beautiful assist to Kyle Mangas for a layup for the other points in the run.
The Eagles, who opened the final period with a 6-0 run, went scoreless for 3:37 of the fourth stanza. A Kupferschmid trey with 1:15 to play cut the Tiger lead to 46-42. Mangas then hit two free throws, Stookey two and Nate Pearl a pair in the final 48.3 seconds to seal the win.
The Tigers’ last win was a 48-41 decision over Northern Lakes Conference foe Goshen at home back on Jan. 17.
“I think our players are relieved as much as anything to get a win,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle. “They have a right to feel good about this win. We did a good job in a lot of ways tonight to win this game. Elkhart Christian is a good basketball team.
“Jordan played well late and I was glad to see that. We’ve been searching for more scoring help and Paul took more of an offensive initiative tonight and that was huge for us. I wanted to see what Kyle could do. He’s been practicing with the varsity full time the last week and he did a nice job tonight.
“I thought we made them earn their baskets. We’ve talked a lot about our defensive focus and effort. We were fortunate that Kupferschmid missed some threes for them, but I thought we did a nice job defensively. We also rebounded a lot better and that allowed us to get to the free throw line.
“We just need to build on this with two more games to play before the sectional.”
The game was close throughout with nine ties and 10 lead changes. It was 12-12 after the opening period and 22-22 at halftime. Warsaw inched ahead 36-33 by outscoring the Eagles 14-11 in the third quarter.
Elkhart Christian, which has wins over Elkhart Memorial, Mishawaka and Fairfield to its credit this season, hurt itself with four key turnovers in the fourth quarter. The normally sweet-shooting Eagles were also just 7-25 from 3-point range, including 2-12 by Kupferschmid.
“We’re disappointed because our guys felt we could come in here and win,” said Elkhart Christian coach Ryan Culp. “It was a great experience for our guys to come in here and play a great program in a great environment. We hope this experience carries over into the state tournament for us.
“We had some costly turnovers late in the game. The combination of that and not hitting some shots makes it hard to have a good chance to win and we were still in the game at the end. Warsaw hit free throws and they had some guys step up and play well.
“They got good bench play and that made it more difficult for us to guard Stookey. It’s pick your poison and we went with the odds. It was just an uncharacteristic night for Ryan shooting threes tonight. He’s close to 45, 47 percent on the season. Tonight, the shots just did not fall for him.”
The Eagles, who have tied last year for the most wins in program history, entered play Tuesday night averaging 70 points-per-game. The 47 points versus the Tigers were a season low.
Elkhart Christian shot 16-37 overall from the field, including 7-25 from long range, and were 8-14 from the line. The Tigers were 18-43 overall, including 2-15 on 3-pointers, and 14-19 from the line (including 12-16 in the second half). Warsaw had a 21-17 rebounding edge and had nine turnovers to 11 for the Eagles.
Kupferschmid, an unselfish 6-2 guard, did have a team-high seven rebounds to go with three assists. He also now has 1,175 career points, second in school history to Drew Ryall’s record of 1,202.
Jake Mangas had nine points and five rebounds for Waraw. Pearl had five points and Riley Rhoades and Moses Marandet each had two.
Drew Overmyer hit three treys for nine points for the Eagles, who started four seniors Tuesday night.
Warsaw won the junior varsity game 55-23. Evan Schmidt scored 14 points and Tyler Packard seven to pace the Tigers. Austin Springer had eight points and Chase Biddle six for the Eagles.
Elkhart Christian hosts Argos Saturday and plays at Elkhart Central to close the regular season on Feb. 25. Warsaw hosts Fort Wayne Luers Friday for Senior Night. The Tigers then conclude regular-season play at Fort Wayne Carroll Feb. 28.