By Mike Deak
WARSAW – Penn at Warsaw. In boys basketball, that’s about all the old guard in Tiger Town need to hear to get fired up. While Al Rhodes tends to be the focus of most of the nostalgic Warsaw faithful, Penn guard Markus Burton made sure Warsaw remembers his name.
Burton dropped 28 huge points to help the Kingsmen rally to claim a 51-48 win Tuesday night over the Tigers.
A steal by Burton as Judah Simfukwe was approaching a potential go-ahead shot followed by a pair of free throws sealed the win for the Kingsmen. Penn trailed by as much as six points in the fourth quarter, but Burton scored eight of Penn’s final 15 points. The biggest basket, however, was created off the attention paid to Burton, as his skip pass to a wide open Casey Shultz for a three put Penn up 49-48.
The scoring outburst by Penn in the fourth, which tallied 24 points, flipped what was just a five-point third quarter.
Warsaw, on the other hand, led 42-36 after Jaxon Gould scored his eighth point of the fourth, but soon picked up his fifth foul with the Tigers leading 45-44.
Gould had 16 points, 11 of those coming from the free throw line, and had four rebounds and three assists.
“You can’t turn the ball over,” said Warsaw head coach Matt Moore. “Our starting backcourt had seven turnovers for the second consecutive game. You want me to use all my timeouts, but you’re at some point going to have to grow up and learn how to be basketball players.
“We’re going to have to have some leadership step up. That’s what we’re searching for.”
Shultz had nine points for the Kingsmen and Ben Bergen added 11 points for the Tigers.
The win for the Kingsmen (3-4) was just the second time Rhodes has returned to coach at Warsaw after leading the Tiger program for 22 seasons. Rhodes lost to Warsaw in 2009 in the other contest. The Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer led Warsaw to its only state championship in 1984 and has won 632 games in his career, 405 of those at Warsaw. Tuesday night was the first win for Rhodes over his old program.
Warsaw and Penn are both in the Elkhart Sectional, where the two teams have played twice since 2016, both Tiger wins.
“Give Penn the credit, they’ve got the best player and they have the better coach, and they did what they needed to do tonight to grind out a win,” quipped Moore, whose team drops to 6-6 overall with a Northern Lakes Conference game looming Friday at Goshen.
A big third quarter boosted Warsaw to a 56-38 JV win over the Kingsmen. Warsaw outscored Penn 23-14 coming out ofthe half to pull away from what was just a four-point Tiger lead at the half.
Drew Heckaman again led the Tigers with 19 points and Kyle Dawson added 14 points and five boards. Joe Garwood pitched in 16 points for the Kingsmen.