WARSAW – There were a plethora of reasons why the Warsaw boys basketball team came out on the short end of a 34-31 final Friday night to visiting Lake Central.
Warsaw coach Doug Ogle was able to sum it all up though in a very succinct manner.
“They were just more solid than we were tonight,” offered Ogle.
Well said and so true on this night.
The Class 4-A No. 13 Tigers, who fall to 4-2, shot just 12-35 for the game. The hosts were only 1-12 from 3-point range, got to the free throw line just nine times (making six) and had 11 critical turnovers to just four assists in a low possession game.
The Indians, who lost a 42-38 final in overtime at home last season to Warsaw, shot just well enough to win. Lake Central, which moves to 3-1, was 12-33 overall from the field (4-15 on 3-point tries) and had just six turnovers.
A patient Lake Central team forced the Tigers into playing defense for long stretches. The athletic Indians also used a physical defense to hound Warsaw star Kyle Mangas all game long. The senior, who entered the game averaging 23 points-per-contest, scored nine points on 4-13 shooting. Mangas got to the free throw line just one time in the game.
“Their defense on Kyle was very good,” said Ogle. “I thought that they were really physical with him. I thought that they fouled him more than was called, but you have to adjust to the officiating. That was not why we lost this game.
“We missed too many shots around the basket. We got good shots. We just did not make them. We did not handle the ball well enough. They were just more solid than we were. They handled the ball better and their defense overall was better.
“They were smart and patient. I was surprised how patient they were on offense. They had a lot of long possessions and that was time that they did not have to guard us. It was amazing the game was this close.
“We need to compete better all the time as a team and I think that we can do that. We also need to figure something out and try a different approach with our ball handling.”
The Tigers, who were coming off a 63-36 home win over Manchester Thursday night, still had their chances late despite the struggles from basically start to finish.
The Indians took a 32-29 lead on a layup by Nick Bandura with 1:10 to play. Warsaw then missed a pair of potential 3-point shots, one each by Jack Rhoades and Zach Riley, on the next possession. Lake Central made it 34-29 when Joe Graziano hit two free throws with 14.2 seconds to play. Mangas then missed a trey try before Asher Blum converted a rebound with 1.4 ticks left to make it 34-31. After a Tiger timeout, Lake Central threw a long inbounds pass and time expired.
“The toughness that my kids showed tonight made me proud of them win or lose,” said Lake Central coach Dave Milausnic. “We just wanted to play smart and take what the defense gives us tonight. We’ve stressed patience on offense to our kids and tonight was the first time I’ve seen it. They took it to heart that we had to be patient.
“We have the utmost respect for Warsaw. Mangas is a very good player and we were worried about him coming in. But we have some pretty good athletes who want to win. They didn’t capitalize and we were able to.”
Warsaw entered play Friday night averaging 56 points-per-game, while the Indians were scoring at a 64 points-per-game clip.
Lake Central led 10-8 after the opening period and 16-15 at halftime. The Tigers were just 5-15 in the opening half and had six turnovers. Mangas had one basket on a drive to the hoop with 2:38 to play in the first half.
The Indians took the biggest lead of the game at 24-17 on a trey by Jack Davis in the third period. Warsaw answered with a 7-0 run, sparked by five points by Mangas, to tie the game at 24-24. A bucket by Graziano gave Lake Central a 26-24 edge at the end of the third quarter. Warsaw led at 28-27 on a Mangas bucket in the lane with 5:50 to play in the final frame. A pair of free throws by Justin Graciano with 4:39 remaining gave the Indians the lead for good.
Mangas had nine points and six rebounds. Ross Johnson and Asher Blum each had five points, Zach Riley four, Jeremy David and Jaceb Burish three each and Braxton Minix two.
Senior Joe Graziano and junior Conner Tomasic each had eight points to lead the Indians. Senior Nick Bandura scored seven points.
Warsaw won the junior varsity game 66-51. Landen Ferber scored 21 points and Tyler Metzinger 13 to lead Warsaw. Dominic Ciapponi had 14 points and Hunter Zezovski 13 to pace Lake Central.
Warsaw topped Lake Central 44-40 in double overtime in the freshman game. Blake Marsh had 15 points to pace the winners. Connor Lennox had 13 points and seven rebounds and Jaylen Coon nine points for the Tigers, who move to 4-2.
Warsaw opens Northern Lakes Conference play at Wawasee next Friday night. Lake Central hosts South Bend Washington Tuesday night.