ELKHART – Kyle Mangas has a quiet confidence about him.
He doesn’t say too much and he also listens well.
Those listening skills did the Warsaw basketball star a World of good too Friday night.
Mangas, who was the object of chants from the Elkhart Central student section during introductions and early on in the sectional semifinal, sure knew the way to silence the Blue Blazer faithful.
Mangas made his own noise on this night in usual fashion with his play doing the talking as the Tigers put on a hoops clinic in bludgeoning the Blue Blazers 71-36 in the Class 4-A Elkhart Central Sectional.
The Tigers also got a huge performance from Jeremy David. The senior forward, known mostly for his defense, muscle and rebounding skills, was an offensive highlight reel. David, who was averaging 5.2 points-per-game, poured in a career-high 17 points in a magnificent effort.
Mangas, who was greeted with chants of “Overrated”, answered the bell with a game-high 26 points as Warsaw simply dominated the hosts for 32 minutes.
Warsaw, which had lost 50-45 to Central in North Side Gym back on Jan. 28, advances to play Goshen (15-9) in the sectional final Saturday at 7 p.m. Goshen beat Elkhart Memorial 65-56 in the first semifinal contest Friday night.
The Tigers, who are now 16-9, beat the RedHawks 57-31 back on Jan. 13 in an NLC matchup in Goshen. The sectional winner earns a spot in the Michigan City Regional March 11 to play the East Chicago Central Sectional champion in the second semifinal game.
The Tigers did not win the sectional title Friday night.
But they sure put on a championship performance in every phase of the game to earn the right to defend their title.
And it was probably a very poor choice to help motivate the premier player in the sectional field when all was said and done.
Mangas, who should be a lock for the Indiana All-Star team, “only” came into the game averaging 21.4 points-per-game (highest of any player in the sectional field) and fifth in program history with 1,330 career points.
Maybe the Central student sectional should have chanted “Underrated” or even “MVP, MVP”, which they did for their own star Cornell Conner when he exited late in the blowput, instead of pouring gas on the fire for the best player in the sectional field with one silly little word.
Mangas, who set the tone from the opening tip as Warsaw blitzed the Blue Blazers 16-0 to open the rout, admitted he heard the noise.
“It fueled me and motivated me,” said Mangas about the chants. “I was just locked in from the get go and ready to take control. It was not a good idea on their part I don’t think.”
Take control the senior surely did. The 6-3 guard, who will play at Indiana Wesleyan next season, scored 12 points in the opening frame. Warsaw led 16-2 after the opening period as Central did not make a field goal. The Tigers packed in their trademark strength of half court defense and dared the quick and athletic Blue Blazers to settle for jumpers. The hosts obliged too as their first six shot attempts of the contest were from beyond the 3-point line.
Central, coming off a triple-overtime win over Penn on Wednesday night in which they erased a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter, was never in the game. The Blue Blazers were flat, leg-weary and a step slow at both ends from the get go in this one.
Warsaw led 32-11 by halftime as Mangas had 18 points. Central was 2-19 from the field in the first half, including a dismal 1-14 from 3-point range. The Blue Blazers’ Achilles Heel this year, as in outside shooting, was exposed in a big way Friday night.
The Tigers never relented in the final half. Warsaw opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run and coasted home.
“Everyone was just locked in tonight, especially on defense for us,” noted Mangas.
Warsaw held a Central team averaging 60.3 points-per-contest to a season low. The Blue Blazers’ previous low was 46 points in a 46-34 win over South Bend Washington. Central had only scored less than 50 points twice this season prior to Friday night, including in a 49-48 loss to Glenn.
“I was confident that we could win this game, but I did not expect this,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle of the beatdown his team put on a Central team that was a program-best 20-2 prior to the rout. “We just played really well in all phases of the game tonight. I think the first quarter was our best quarter of the year.
“We did not guard the ball well the first time we played Central and they got to the basket. We were determined tonight to pack it in more with our pack-line defense. Out guys did a great job defensively. They were very disciplined and stayed in front of them. We wanted to make them prove they could make shots from outside.
“I thought that if we out rebounded them and Kyle shot the ball well we would win. Both of those things happened. I felt that we could guard them. I was worried about us handling the ball, but we did that well too. We got the lead and were patient and shot it well.
“And Kyle was really good tonight.”
Mangas, who hit a game winning trey at the final horn Wednesday night to beat Northridge 36-33, was 6-11 from the field and 13-15 from the line. He moved past Whitey Bell (1,331) into fourth place on the program’s career scoring list and now has 1,356 points. He also had nine rebounds and four assists.
“All day yesterday and today our coaches said the two most important things tonight were defense and rebounding like always,” related David. “That was our mindset coming into tonight. We came out and just set the tone from the start with our pack-line defense.
“We knew we had the ability to win, but no way did I picture almost doubling up the score on them. They left opportunities and I was the one lucky enough tonight to have layups.”
The soft-spoken and always polite David, who was a beast on this night, went 5-7 from the field and 7-8 from the line.
Warsaw, who played by far the toughest schedule of any team in the sectional field, has not blinked this week despite losing its final three games of the regular season (Merrillville, Carmel and Carroll).
“I told the kids after the game that this is why we play Carmel and Merrillville and Crown Point and Homestead, to get ready for a game like this,” remarked Ogle. “Central is a very good team, but we’ve seen very good teams all season.”
Braxton Minix had 10 big points for the Tigers. Asher Blum added six and six big boards, while Nolan Groninger had four points. The quartet of Zach Riley, Jack Rhoades, Jaceb Burish and Jack Grose each had two points.
Warsaw shot 21-38 from the field and were 28-35 from the line. The Tigers had a 40-22 rebounding edge and had just 11 turnovers.
Cornell Conner, one of seven seniors for Central, scored 12 points. Adonis Brown had nine for the Blue Blazers, who had won 12 in a row prior to Friday night.
Central shot 11-47 for the game, including 5-32 from distance. The hosts were 9-17 from the line.
The Blue Blazers, who lost in the sectional final last year to Warsaw on a three-point play by Mangas with 1.6 seconds to play, finished 20-3 under first-year coach Terry Smith.