WARSAW — It was a sour end to a sweet regular season for the Warsaw boys basketball team Friday night. The Tigers celebrated their highly decorated senior class but it was Carroll that left the Tiger Den with a sense of pride as it closed out a 44-39 victory.
The Chargers seemed to be clicking right away and jumped out to a 17-7 lead in the first quarter before giving up a 6-0 run to the Tigers. Carroll led 17-13 going into the second after Jack Rhoades buried a three to beat the buzzer for the Orange and Black. Warsaw played thing tight in the second and trailed 24-20 at the break.
Kyle Mangas, who entered the game averaging 22 points per contest, scored eight in the first quarter and just two through the rest of the night to finish 10. The senior was just 4-17 from the floor.
“Make the other guys hurt us,” said Carroll head coach Marty Beasley when asked of his team’s defensive strategy on Mangas and the Tigers. “Stop Mangas, he’s a really good player, a very efficient player. We just wanted to keep athletes on him, keep bodies on him, we kept rotating guys on him a little bit. Our hope was to wear him down, make him hit 15-footers, don’t give him the lay-up.”
The strategy worked well as Mangas’ 10 points were a team high. Braxton Minix added eight for the Tigers while Asher Blum and Jeremy David each had six. David also led all players with eight boards.
Warsaw came out of the locker room ready to play in the second half. The Tigers would outscore Carroll 12-4 in the third and take a 32-28 lead into the fourth. It was just a four-point lead, but Warsaw had grabbed back all of the momentum it had lost early in the game. Unfortunately, it would not last long.
Carroll (12-9) opened the final frame with a 4-0 run to tie things at 32. Daniel McKeeman later drained a three to put the Chargers up 35-34 with 5:52 to play, Carroll never lost the lead after that.
The Tigers, as they had all game, kept things close and faced a 41-38 deficit with just 48 seconds remaining. Warsaw trapped McKeeman on the far side of the court and appeared to force the sophomore into a turnover when it look as if he had traveled due to the pressure. There was no call made, much to the dismay of the home crowd. McKeeman was able to get the ball out on a pass to Riley Perlich under the basket. Perlich, who led all players with 16 points, made an easy bucket and all but sealed the win for Carroll.
“We shot poorly tonight,” stated Warsaw head coach Doug Ogle. “Kyle Mangas was 4-17, we’re not going to beat a good team if he shoots like that. Though I am encouraged by his five assists and one turnover.
“That’s an aberration. Kyle is human, he’s allowed to have an off night here and there. It’s good that he had it tonight and got it out of his system because, as we know, this is an outlier.”
Mangas’ 10 points were his second-lowest of the season, a nine-point outing against Lake Central being the only lower output. That game and Friday’s mark the only times this season where he had scored below 13 points in a game.
Friday’s loss is a small, unfortunate bump in the road for the Tigers, but the postseason still holds plenty of opportunity for Warsaw.
“Our guys are disappointed, they wanted to do better on senior night,” Ogle explained. “But, this isn’t the end. It’s not like we don’t care, we care. But, also, we knew that when we put this schedule together that this could happen. But, if you’re serious about winning the sectional, this is how you should do it and trust that your players have enough emotional stability to battle through it. I think they do, matter of fact, I know they do.”
Warsaw (14-9) plays Northridge Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. at North Side Gym in the opening round of the Elkhart Sectional.