MICHIGAN CITY – Several key members of the Warsaw boys basketball team spent this past week battling illness in preparation for the regional.
On Saturday afternoon, it was Tiger star Kyle Mangas that left East Chicago Central and its fans with a sick feeling.
Mangas was downright unstoppable to pace Warsaw past the Cardinals 61-59 in double overtime in the second semifinal game of the Class 4-A Michigan City Regional.
The brilliant Mangas poured in a career-high 47 points in a performance for the ages to send his team into the regional title game Saturday night.
Warsaw, now 18-9 and the defending regional champions, faces Merrillville (20-7) at 8:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday for the regional crown and a spot in the semistate March 18 at either Lafayette Jefferson or Huntington North. Merrillville routed South Bend Adams 75-49 in the first semifinal contest Saturday.
Warsaw dropped a 53-48 final to Merrillville back on Feb. 11 in the Tiger Den.
Mangas, who entered the regional averaging 21.6 poiints-per-game, hit a pair of free throws with 2.1 seconds to play for the final points of a good-old fashion donnybrook.
The Tigers needed every single point by their All-Star guard to sideline the quick and athletic Cardinals, who finish at 15-10.
“I got off to a hot start today and that helped a lot,” said Mangas, who scored his team’s first 16 points of the game. “We just had a lot of guys step up today and play with a lot of composure.
“I was just feeling it, especially getting to the basket. Both crowds were crazy and it was fun to play in an atmosphere like this. For sure, this was my best game ever. It was awesome.”
Awesome describes just what Mangas, who will play at Indiana Wesleyan next season, was.
The 6-3 guard, who ranks fourth in program history in career scoring, simply put on a show. He finished 15-23 overall from the field and 15-17 at the line. He also found time to grab a team-high nine rebounds, dish out two assists and nab three steals.
The biggest pair of free throws of the game and his superb career came at the most needed time. The cool and clutch Mangas hit both tosses after being fouled when Asher Blum attempted a long inbounds pass to him.
Mangas, who entered play Saturday hitting 87 percent from the line, swished both. His game winners came after Jabril Harris powered inside to tie the game at 59-59 with 5.0 seconds left.
Warsaw then took a timeout with 2.8 ticks left on the clock. Blum fired a long pass towards Mangas, a former wide receiver on the Warsaw football team, who was grabbed on the play as he tried to gather in the fine pass from Blum.
The Cardinals had one final chance to win, but their final trey attempt by Louis Williams hit short off the rim at the final horn.
Mangas scored his 47 points in every way imaginable, including throwing down a pair of dunks. His previous career scoring high was 30 points versus both Tippecanoe Valley and Elkhart Central during the regular season this year.
Jack Rhoades was outstanding in the backcourt for the Tigers. The junior guard played 30 stellar minutes off the bench and had just one turnover. Rhoades was forced into major minutes with Nolan Groninger slowed due to illness. Groninger, along with Blum, Zach Riley and Braxton Minix all missed practice time this week due to illness.
“Jack was the hero for us too today,” said Ogle. “His ball handling was just huge for us.”
Warsaw hit 17-23 from the line, while the foul-prone Cardinals were just 7-8. ECC was whistled for 21 fouls to 12 for the Tigers.
The Tiger defense once again was the difference. Warsaw held ECC star senior Jermaine Couisnard to 18 points. The guard, who made an unofficial visit to Kansas two weeks ago, hit just 5-16 shots. Couisnard entered play averaging almost 28 points-per-game.
Warsaw, which was allowing just 42 points-per-game, held check a team averaging almost 71 points-per-game. The Tigers did it with toughness, both physical and mental, grit and composure.
“I told David (Warsaw assistant coach David Wayne) that Kyle could get 40 today,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle. “We didn’t talk about it, but he knew what we needed from him in this game. He was unbelievable, even by his own standards.
“I thought that we could guard them and we did a good job on Couisnard. He was 5-16. They have a lot of quickness and we kept them off the line. I thought that we should have shot more free throws.
“For our defense to hold them to 59 points in double overtime. That’s why we won this game. That and Kyle scoring 45 points for good measure. I’m just real proud of our guys. They showed a lot of poise to hang in there after East Chicago came back to force overtime.”
Warsaw led 57-50 on a Mangas layup with 2:00 to play in regulation. The Cardinals closed the game with a 7-0 run, tying it on a trey by Couisnard with 1:22 left. Mangas had a chance to win it, but his final jumper was short.
The Cardinals opted to hold the ball for the first two minutes of the first four-minute overtime period. Mangas came up with a steal with 1:50 to play and the Tigers ran clock. Warsaw turned the ball over late, but Harris missed a layup with 20 seconds to play. Mangas was then short on a jumper and a half court heave by Alyion Stubbs of ECC hit off the front of the rim.
The Cardinals again chose to hold the ball to start the second overtime period. ECC turned it over again, this time on a travel with 1:38 remaining. Mangas then put Warsaw up 59-57 with two free throws with 35.6 seconds to play.
“We were prepared, we stuck to our gameplan and did not panic,” said Jeremy David of how the Tigers won a regional semifinal thriller in double overtime for the second straight year. “I just kept thinking that it’s just like last year. We can do this just like we did then (a 79-74 win over South Bend Riley).”
Warsaw led 20-13 after the opening period as Couisnard went to the bench in early foul trouble. The Tigers were up 33-28 at halftime as Mangas had 24 points. Mangas scored 13 more points in the third frame to stake his team to a 49-41 lead after the third period.
Jeremy David scored five points, while Asher Blum had four. Jack Rhoades and Braxton Minix each had two points and Zach Riley one.
Albion Stubbs, one of eight seniors, had 15 points for ECC. Harris, a 6-7 senior had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Warsaw shot 21-38 overall from the field, including 2-6 from distance. The Cardinals were just 24-55 from the floor, including 4-16 from deep.