BOURBON – One way to put out a fire is to smother it. Warsaw was left with no choice Wednesday night, using a blanket third quarter performance to get by Triton, 46-33, in boys buckets at the Trojan Trench.
Triton and Warsaw were flat-footed at 20 apiece at halftime, the Trojans the benefactor of a tremendous first half and tons of momentum. The two teams weren’t exactly on fire in the first half, combining for just 13-34 from the floor, but Zac Pitney was single-handedly willing the Trojans along. Pitney was doing his best old school NBA Jam Session, hitting a pair of threes, then flipped in an acrobatic shot to get Triton up four, leaving a stunned Warsaw side having to scramble to tie the game just before half.
But all the mustard and mojo Triton had going into its lockerroom didn’t come back out for the third quarter.
Warsaw held Triton scoreless for the first 7:16 of the third, only allowing a bankshot three from Adam Stevens to break up the 16-0 Tigers run during that stretch. In that timeframe for Warsaw, Kyle Mangas began to do what he does best – disrupt play on defense and create on offense. After Mangas picked Triton’s pocket on a pass, the senior whistled a pass to Jaceb Burish for an easy layup, putting Warsaw up 36-20.
Mangas’ statline was a familiar one, doing it all with 14 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals. Mangas sits just 17 points shy of 1,000 for his career, likely to achieve the mark next week at the Hall of Fame Classic against New Albany or in the nightcap against either Logansport or Lawrence North.
“We finally got a spark or something,” said Warsaw head coach Doug Ogle. “We didn’t have a very good week of practice Monday or Tuesday. I was a little nervous about this game. We played kind of how we practiced, which was not that sharp.”
Triton head coach Jason Groves noted he’s seen this breakdown from his club before, notably in games against Plymouth and NorthWood earlier in the season. Not coincidentally, all three games ended in double-digit losses. Pitney would finish with a game-high 16 points but had only two points in the second half, Grant Johnson’s eight points were neutralized and no other Trojan had more than three points on 3-16 shooting from the remainder of the roster.
“That’s one thing, we have to be more consistent in what we do,” Groves said. “This shows we can’t put a full game together. We have to get more consistent in our approach at practice and carry over to the game. These teams are fundamentally sound and physically stronger, more athletic. They are going to expose your weaknesses. You just have to figure out what those are and just keeping working on them.
“Our kids aren’t going to stop getting better,” continued Groves. “We’re going to look at it, look at film and see what we need to correct and keep progressing. That’s the good thing about these games, yes, we want to be right down to the wire, but they are going to show our weaknesses and take that and improve on it.”
Ross Johnson would finish with 11 points and Jack Rhoades nine points, both outputs noted by Ogle as key to the night.
“That’s big for us, to have outside shooting other than Kyle,” Ogle said. “That’s one thing I’m encouraged about, the combination of Rhoades and Johnson. They were 6-9 (from three). That’s big. That really helps. Now if you are game planning and see something like this, you’re like oooh, do we really want to risk giving up wide open threes to those guys. So, I like that part of tonight, how Ross Johnson and Jack Rhoades shot the ball. That was good, and that is needed big time for our team offense. To have more balance.”
Warsaw moves to 6-2 on the season with the huge matchup with Romeo Langford and New Albany on Dec. 30 at the Hall of Fame Classic in New Castle. Triton settles at 4-4 with its next two games back-to-back on Jan. 6 and 7 at home against John Glenn and West Central.
In the JV contest, Warsaw had no trouble in defeating Triton 43-18. Landon Ferber scored 11 points to lead the Tigers, which only shot 32 percent from the floor, but still had seven players score at least one basket. Delano Shumpert had six points in the loss for Triton.