WARSAW – The score may have been far from exciting but the game was as exhilarating as they come when Columbia City came to town to face Warsaw in boys hoops action.
The Tigers pitched a shutout in the second quarter and used some late-game heroics to claim a 38-35 victory over the visiting Eagles in front of a swashbuckling student section Saturday night at The Tiger Den.
After falling behind 8-4 after the first quarter, Warsaw went on a 7-0 run to open the second quarter. Well, actually, Warsaw simply outscored Columbia City 7-0 throughout the second quarter in its entirety to take an 11-8 lead into the locker room.
The scoreless second quarter for the Tiger defense was one of the highlights of a night full of defensive prowess from both teams. Both offenses went on long stretches of scoreless play but the Tigers were able to get clutch play from several players throughout the night to stay ahead of the historically sharp-shooting Eagles.
Most of that clutch play came in the fourth quarter after Columbia City seemed to regain momentum, climbing back to tie the game, 29-29. But Warsaw, which had gone several possessions without any points, responded in a big way when Nick Sands sank a three from the corner to put the Tigers back up 32-29 with 3:25 left to play. Sands finished the game tied for the team lead with 11 points, hitting two shots from deep.
But that lead would not be enough to hold off Columbia City for long. The Eagles would end up taking a 33-32 lead with just over a minute to play. The Tigers finally regained the lead after two made free throws from Kyle Mangas. With under 30 seconds to play, the sophomore was just getting started.
Mangas forced a steal on the ensuing inbound pass and took the loose ball for a quick layup, giving Warsaw a 36-33 advantage. Following a basket by the Eagles with just 10 seconds left, the Tigers were forced to inbound against a tight press from the visiting squad. This time Mangas received a help from his brother, Jake, to clip the Eagles wings.
“We didn’t have a designed play there,” said Warsaw head coach Doug Ogle. “That’s a desperation throw from Jake (Mangas) to lob it over the top to his brother (Kyle). We had to inbound the ball, there was more than five seconds on the clock, that’s just a great play by those two guys.”
As Ogle said, the elder Mangas tossed a desperation inbound pass down the court that ended up being a perfect throw to his brother. The younger Mangas laid in another two points as time expired, sending the Warsaw crowd into a frenzy.
Warsaw’s shooters may not have been deadly on Saturday night but they still had their moments. One of the biggest plays on the offensive end of the court came in the closing seconds of the third quarter when Tim Swanson drained a three-point shot before the buzzer to give the Tigers a 24-19 lead. Swanson’s shot swung momentum back in Warsaw’s favor and brought the crowd to its feet.
“That was a big shot for them,” said Columbia City head coach Chris Benedict. “We were trying to make some substitutions at that point and we had guys just getting on to the court and lost track of the time and the shooter.”
Kyle Mangas finished with 11 points. Paul Marandet led the Tigers with eight rebounds. Brachen Hazen led all players with 12 points and also pulled down eight boards for the Eagles. Warsaw’s defense would end up forcing 14 Eagle turnovers.
“I was proud of our defense, that’s what won the game for us,” remarked Ogle. “We shot poorly tonight. We had a lot of good shots, we just missed them. Columbia City’s inside presence was part of that, but we just shot poorly, especially in the first half. I think we outplayed them in the first half, more than what the score would indicate.
“But, tonight we can take a dose of confidence from this win. I think against Tippecanoe Valley we had to take a dose of humility, but tonight we can take some confidence away from this win.”
Warsaw (2-0) will travel to Homestead next Friday. Columbia City (1-1) will host Northrop on Friday.
Warsaw won the junior varsity contest 50-39. Bishop Harrison led all Tigers with 12 points. Jordan Bechtold’s 14 points for Columbia City led all players.