PLYMOUTH – The Warsaw boys basketball team rewrote history in the annals of the Northern Lakes Conference Friday night.
And it was star author Kyle Mangas who made sure to pen the final fitting chapter in the championship tale.
Mangas led a fourth-quarter flurry that propelled the Tigers past rival Plymouth 51-40 in the conference finale.
The clutch and consistent Mangas delivered better than the postman at crunch time as Warsaw claimed its third straight NLC championship.
More importantly, the Tigers made league history by becoming the first time in the NLC to go undefeated at 7-0 in three straight seasons.
Warsaw joins Concord as the only team in league history to win three straight conference crowns. The Minutemen, led by Shawn Kemp, won three from 1986-88, but had a 6-1 conference season sandwiched in between a pair of 7-0 league finishes.
Mangas, who is leading the Tigers in scoring for the third straight year, cooly and calmly scored 21 points. The 6-3 senior guard had nine in the final frame as Warsaw outscored the Pilgrims 21-9.
Mangas, who for good measure also moved into fifth place on the school’s all-time scoring list Friday night, got to savor the final 14.7 seconds from the bench after leaving the game to a rousing ovation from a large fan following.
“This means everything to me,” said Mangas in the postgame celebration. “If you look at all the great players who have played in this conference and all the great teams, it’s crazy to think about being the first to win 21 in a row.
“It just means a lot to me. The three years have just gone by so fast. I was just determined in the fourth quarter to finish it off. I wanted this bad. It just feels good. I’ve put in the time to get to this point. I really want to thank my coaches, especially for developing my leadership. That’s been a big thing for me.”
Talk about a leader.
The Indiana All-Star candidate was that and more in the fourth quarter. Plymouth led 31-30 entering the final frame. Mangas scored nine points, including back-to-back buckets to give his team a 43-35 lead late. He then hit two free throws with 31.5 seconds to play and two more with 14.7 remaining to ice the win.
The veteran Tigers got key contributions from Jeremy David, Jaceb Burish and Asher Blum in the win. David had eight points and eight rebounds, while Burish had eight points and Blum seven rebounds. A rebound hoop by Blum to start the fourth period gave the Tigers the lead for good at 32-31.
“First of all, I’m proud of this year’s team to win the conference,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle. “This year’s group has been pretty good to do that and I’m happy for them.
“To do something like this that has never been done before is something to feel good about. It’s really hard to imagine right now what we just did. I’m just thankful to be in this position. I’m thankful for everyone in our program, including our assistant coaches, the players, everyone. I’m very blessed to be the leader of this group.”
Warsaw, which improves to 14-6 overall, came out of fire to take an 8-0 lead. The Tigers led 14-6 at the end of the opening period as Mangas scored seven points. Plymouth rallied to take a 21-20 halftime lead thanks to its outside shooting. The Pilgrims hit 7-10 from beyond the arc in the opening half for all 21 of their points.
“Plymouth shot great in the first half, but we were not patient offensively and had six turnovers,” noted Ogle. “They hit 7-10 on threes and were up only one. We were in a good position at halftime. There was no reason for us to panic. We did not think they could shoot like that in the second half. I told our guys before the game that i thought that the team who shot the most threes tonight would probably lose and they shot 23 and we shot nine.”
The Pilgrims took their biggest lead of the night on a three-point play by Clay Hilliard that made it 29-23 with 3:02 to play in the third period. The driving layup by Hilliard was the first two-point hoop of the night for the hosts. Warsaw answered with a 7-2 run to close the period, keyed by two hoops by Mangas, to cut the deficit to 31-30.
“I thought that our guys showed their toughness and their competitive spirit in the second half after we got down by six,” said Ogle. “Jeremy David gave us some big baskets and rebounding was big with Asher and Jeremy. Asher had seven rebounds and that was big for us.”
Ogle, who has now led Warsaw to six NLC championships, had plenty or praise for his star.
“The common denominator in these three seasons is Kyle,” remarked Ogle. “Kyle and I talked after his sophomore season about can we do this (go 21-0 in the NLC). He’s been stellar. He’s just been remarkably consistent. It’s just a testament to his steadiness. He’s just very fearless and not afraid of the moment.”
Mangas, who will play at indiana Wesleyan next year, has scored 20 of more points in 11 straight games. He now has 1,252 career points and passed Steve Reed on Friday night for fifth in program history. Reed, a 1977 WCHS graduate, went on to play at Indiana State with Larry Bird.
Senior Nick Felke led the Pilgrims, who drop to 11-8 and finish 2-5 in the league, with 21 points. Hilliard added nine points for Plymouth.
The Pilgrims, who lost 46-30 at Warsaw last season, are the last team to beat Warsaw in the NLC. Plymouth topped the Tigers 38-31 on Feb. 13 in the final league game of the 2013-14 campaign.
Warsaw shot 20-36 from the field, including 11-17 in the second half. The Tigers were 3-9 from distance and 8-13 from the line. Plymouth shot 13-34 from the field, but just 6-20 in the second half. The hosts were 10-23 from distance, including 3-13 in the final half. The Pilgrims were 4-9 from the line.
Plymouth won the junior varsity contest as Bryce Carmichael hit a 3-pointer with nine seconds to go for a 42-40 win. Carmichael led the winners with 18 points. Jaylen Reese scored 12 points, while Landon Ferber had nine and Trevor Rumple eight to lead Warsaw.
Warsaw hosts Merrillville (14-6) Saturday with the JV game at 3 p.m. Merrillville defeated LaPorte 66-55 Friday night. Plymouth hosts Penn (9-9) Tuesday night.