ELKHART – Warsaw boys basketball coach Doug Ogle has trust in his team’s work on the defensive end of the floor.
It’s easy to understand why too.
The Tigers rode yet another sensational effort on the defensive end Friday night to pound Penn 52-31 in a semifinal game of the Class 4-A Elkhart Sectional.
Junior star Kyle Mangas scored a game-high 16 points and junior Braxton Minix came up with a big game with 10 points as the No. 5 and favorite Tigers rolled into the sectional final.
Warsaw, now 22-1, will face Elkhart Central (16-7) on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in the sectional finale. The winner earns a spot in the Michigan City Regional March 12 versus the winner of the Plymouth Sectional. Plymouth will face South Bend Riley Saturday night in the sectional final at Plymouth.
Central defeated Goshen 68-40 in the second semifinal Friday night at North Side Gym. Warsaw beat the Blue Blazers 49-35 on Jan. 30 at Warsaw.
Warsaw, which has one of the state’s top defensive averages for points allowed per game at 38.9 points-per-game, simply shut down the Kingsmen.
Penn, which entered play Friday night averaging 55.7 points-per-game, shot just 8-39 overall from the field. The Kingsmen were just 4-23 from two-point range and did not make their first two-point basket of the game until making a layup with 6:26 to play in the fourth quarter. The 31 points was a season low, eclipsing the 36 that Penn tallied in a 65-36 loss to Carroll on Jan. 16.
“I thought that we matched up pretty well with them and I trust our defense,” said Ogle. “It was a typical game defensively for us tonight. We played real solid and smart. I didn’t expect to win by 20, but I thought we were the better team and that we could guard them well.”
Did the Tigers ever guard the Kingsmen well.
Warsaw held Penn standout Matt Trewhella to just four points. The senior, who entered sectional play averaging 20 ppg., was 1-10 from the field. Trewhella had 25 points Tuesday night as Penn beat Northridge 55-48 in the sectional opener.
Senior lockdown defender Paul Marandet led the way with his usual stellar, hard-nosed effort on the defensive end for the Tigers.
“Paul is a good matchup for us on Trewhella and I also thought that Kyle guarded him well tonight,” noted Ogle. “Our main focus was to make him earn his baskets. I was confident in our defense.”
“I had a meeting with Paul and Kyle yesterday (Thursday) after practice. I told those two that they had to be leaders for us in the sectional because they are the two with the most experience back from last year. We really did not talk about last year’s sectional loss with the team, but it was an undercurrent.”
Penn, which finishes at 11-13, led for the only time at 3-2. The Tigers led 7-6 after the opening period and then used a 10-0 run to start the second quarter to take control of the game. Warsaw led 19-9 at halftime as Mangas had nine points. Warsaw shot 7-11 from the field in the opening half, while Penn was 3-14, including 0-7 on two-point attempts.
The Tigers, who had not faced Penn since the 2008-09 season, put the game away by outscoring the Kingsmen 12-4 in the third stanza. Penn did not make a field goal in the frame, managing just four free throws.
“All in all, they are just an excellent team,” said eighth-year Penn coach Al Rhodes of the Tigers, who he coached for 22 highly-successful seasons. “Their defense is unbelievable. They move as one unit, they don’t allow you to drive to the basket and they close out and challenge shooters.
“They have great basketball sense. Marandet is an excellent defender and did a nice job chasing Matt tonight. We weren’t able to drive versus them and we couldn’t function as an offensive unit tonight. That’s been a problem for us all year. We wanted to throw the ball inside more, but give credit to No. 4 (Riley Rhoades) and No. 5 (Jeremy David) for them. When we tried, they kept knocking our guys down.
“It’s difficult to lose three guards (from last year’s team) and then lose Trey Burns (who will play at Bethel next year) at the start of the season. That put us in a bind that we never completely recovered from this season. We have some good young players. We just need to improve our skill level. You saw that tonight.”
Mangas hit 6-9 field goals, including 1-2 from distance, and was 3-4 from the line. He also had four assists and three steals.
Senior Evan Schmidt scored eight points and Marandet had six to go with four rebounds and four assists. Senior Riley Rhoades had four points and four rebounds. Junior Jeremy David had three points, while sophomores Ross Johnson and Jack Rhoades each scored two and junior Jaceb Burish one.
Warsaw shot 16-22 overall from the field, including 9-11 in the second half. The Tigers were 3-5 from distance and went 17-27 from th line. Warsaw had a 28-18 rebounding edge.
The Tigers, whose last sectional title came in 2013, erased for now their tough tourney loss from a year ago. Warsaw was upset by Concord last year at Elkhart in the first round after coming in as the favorite at 17-5.
Senior Tyler Seger scored eight points and freshman Noah Applegate seven to pace Penn.
The Kingsmen finished 8-39 overall from the field, including 5-25 in the second half. Penn was 4-16 from distance and 11-14 from the line.
Penn, which was added to the sectional mix at Elkhart this year after winning a sectional title last year at Penn in a 21-6 season, will lose six seniors.
The Warsaw-Penn game will be shown Saturday morning at 9 a.m. on WHME-TV (Channel 46).