ELKHART – It was obvious Saturday night that the stellar senior class of the Warsaw boys basketball team wanted to spend at least one more week together.
One could say that the Class of 2017 had a Senior Moment.
For the Tigers, who are all about team and toughness, it was also all about the hardware on the hardwood in the end.
Seniors Kyle Mangas and Jeremy David sparked a second-half surge that carried Warsaw past Goshen 49-32 in the title game of the Class 4-A Elkhart Central Sectional at hallowed North Side Gym.
Mangas, the calm and in control leader for the Tigers, poured in a game-high 23 points.
The well-chisled David capped off back-to-back outstanding performances with 10 key points.
Warsaw, which boasts eight seniors, claims back-to-back sectional championships for the first time in 20 years in the storied history of the program. The last Tiger squads to go back-to-back were in 1996-97.
The Tigers improve to 17-9 and will face East Chicago Central (15-9) in the second game of the Michigan City Regional next Saturday at 1 p.m. (ET). East Chicago beat Lake Central 67-62 Saturday night to win its own sectional title. The opening game, which is slated for 11 a.m. (ET), will pit Merrillville (19-7) versus No. 17 South Bend Adams (21-4). Merrillville topped Crown Point 71-60 to win the Michigan City Sectional and Adams beat Plymouth 53-43 to win the South Bend Washington Sectional Saturday night.
The semifinal winners return to Michigan City High School Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. (ET) to play for the regional crown and a spot in the semistate on March 18 at either Lafayette Jefferson or Huntington North. The IHSAA will announce the semistate assignments on March 12.
Warsaw beat South Bend Riley and Crown Point a year ago at Michigan City before losing to McCutcheon in the semistate. The Tigers have not faced East Chicago or Adams this season, but did drop a 53-48 final to Merrillville at home back on Feb. 11.
Warsaw star guard Mangas was not to be denied in this one.
The three-year starter earned his 60th win over that span. The indiana Wesleyan recruit, who ranks fourth in program history in career scoring with 1,379 points, has led his team to new heights in his amazing prep career.
“This means everything to me as it keeps our season going,” said the unflappable Mangas, who has been the poster boy for consistency and clutch play in the Tiger orange and black. “It tells a lot about this team to win back-to-back sectionals. That’s tough to do.”
The Tigers, who beat Goshen 57-31 on Jan. 13, overcame a rocky first half. Warsaw led 9-4 after the opening period before Goshen rallied into a 16-16 tie at halftime. The RedHawks missed their first eight shots of the night and were just 2-11 in the first quarter.
Warsaw hurt itself in the opening half at the offensive end. The Tigers were 6-12 from the field, but had five turnovers. Mangas, who hit a pair of triples to open the contest, had 12 points to pace his team in the first half.
“In the first half, we were just impatient on offense,” offered Warsaw coach Doug Ogle. “We had five turnovers and zero assists. That’s bad. We just needed to slow down.”
Goshen, which finishes at 15-10 under first-year coach Michael Wohlford, took its first lead at 20-18 on a jumper by Michael Pinarski at the 6:51 mark of the third period. The Tigers answered the challenge with an 11-2 run to take control. Mangas and David each had six key points in the pivotal period as Warsaw outscored the RedHawks 18-9 to build a 34-25 lead at the end of the third stanza.
The Tigers did not allow Goshen to get any closer than nine points in the final frame.
“In the second half, we kicked it up a notch on defense,” said Mangas. “Communication is the main thing with the defense we play and all the switching that we do. We also were patient and were seeing the basket.
“Coach Ogle and all of our coaches got us ready this week. We were focused and locked in to what we needed to do. And Jeremy David was huge the past two nights for us. He was an impact player. He hit tough shots for us.”
It was a dose of the tried and true defense that defines the Tigers and simply too much of All-Star lock Mangas.
“Our defense was good in the sectional and that was probably the biggest reason that we won,” remarked Ogle, who has won six sectional titles in his 15 years as head coach. “It was probably Kyle and our defense both as the key reasons we won it again. The thing is that we have Kyle and the teams we are playing don’t. We try not to overthink it along those lines.
“Jeremy David is just becoming more confident and I’m happy with that. I thought that Nolan Groninger played well tonight with his ball handling for us too.”
“It’s hard to win a sectional. To win two in a row like this is pretty good. We’re happy with that.”
David, who had 17 points Friday night in a 71-35 rout of Elkhart Central, was 4-4 from the field. The big man, best known as a stud tight end on the gridiron, was averaging less than five points per game entering sectional play.
“I just didn’t want this to be my last game,” said David of his motivation to win a second straight sectional crown. “I didn’t want my season to end and I wanted the trophy. I wanted to make a difference in the sectional. The thing tonight in the second half was that we just did what we do best, Play solid defense and rebound.”
Mangas was 9-15 from the field and 3-5 from the line. He led the Tigers with five rebounds and also had three assists.
Sophomore Nolan Groninger scored eight points and played another strong floor game for the Tigers. Jaceb Burish had five points and Asher Blum three points and five assists for the champions.
Warsaw shot an outstanding 17-28 from the field, including 3-8 from distance. The Tigers were 12-16 from the line, had 24 rebounds and nine turnovers.
Junior Will Line led Goshen with 10 points. Senior CJ Detwiler netted eight points. The RedHawks finished just 8-31 from the field, including 3-19 from distance. Goshen had 13 rebounds and five turnovers.