DEJA VU: TIGERS WIN AGAIN IN OT
Ink Free News / Sports on Saturday, March 7, 2020
ELKHART — Another night at the Elkhart Sectional, another overtime thriller. This is starting to become a habit for Warsaw.
Two days after the Tigers’ OT victory over Goshen, they rallied past Penn in extra time at North Side Gym to advance to Saturday’s Sectional 4 finale opposite NLC rival Northridge. Warsaw trailed by as many as eight points — the second biggest lead either team managed to muster in a nip-tuck game with six ties and five lead changes — clawing past the Kingsmen for a 58-54 win in Friday’s nightcap.
“I was proud of our poise, the different times when Penn built a lead. They had an eight-point lead in the third quarter, and we were just pretty poised and played much better in the second half,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle. “We were lucky at halftime to only be down three; we were very fortunate. We did everything better in the second half.
“Our team just showed a lot of toughness tonight, honestly.”
A run of seven unanswered points by Penn early in the second half left Warsaw trailing 32-24, forcing a Warsaw timeout. But the Tigers answered the bell with six straight points of their own — four by junior forward Luke Adamiec — and were right back in it. Another quick 8-0 run at the start of the fourth period put Warsaw out front at 43-38. The Tigers still led by a narrow 49-47 margin with a little over a minute left in regulation, but in a twist of fortunes from Wednesday’s win over Goshen, it was Warsaw who couldn’t close it out at the line as Blake Marsh missed a pair of free throws with 9.7 seconds to go.
The Tigers found redemption at the line in overtime, however, converting 7-of-8 charity tosses while trailing only briefly en route to the win. All told, they went 15-of-22 from the stripe compared to a 10-of-18 clip by the Kingsmen. Foul trouble haunted Penn throughout the night as starters Derek Derda, Markus Burton and Joe Smith were all saddled with two fouls in the first half and sat out large intervals prior to the intermission. Smith and Patton ultimately fouled out.
Following his 0-for-5 performance from the line in Wednesday’s win, Adamiec went to work with Warsaw freshman coach Pat O’Connell at Thursday’s practice. The lesson clearly took as he canned 6-of-7 free throws in Friday’s win.
“We were just saying get the ball inside, and we did that. We got it inside on them. We shot better than they did, and this is our best on the free throw line in a long time,” said Ogle. “Adamiec was 0-for-5 (Wednesday). Pat O’Connell worked with Adamiec last night on his free throws, and it worked. Pat says to me ‘Can I work with Adamiec on his free throws? I don’t think we have anything to lose.’ And I said ‘Yeah Pat, go ahead.’ It’s nice when you have a guy like Pat that can kind of make a difference.”
Adamiec led Warsaw with 14 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, while Jaylen Coon knocked down a pair of 3s on his way to a team-high 15 points. Brock Poe put up 14 points with five rebounds, and Marsh finished with 10 points and two assists in another balanced scoring performance by the Tigers. But perhaps the night’s biggest difference-maker hardly showed up on the stat sheet.
Big-bodied sophomore Kyle Dawson never even dressed for Wednesday’s sectional-opener, but he logged some important minutes defending the post opposite Manchester University commit Derek Derda, who was held down from his usual 18.5 points per game to just 11 Friday night.
“Really, a big part of this win tonight was Kyle Dawson, who has really played not much, but he came in and was a difference-maker defensively and rebounding-wise. He came in and had three rebounds in just eight minutes, blocked a shot and changed some shots. And it was much more difficult for Derda when Kyle Dawson was in the game,” explained Ogle.
“I decided yesterday morning after watching Penn, I’ve got to move Kyle Dawson (into the lineup). He didn’t dress (Wednesday). I talked to Drew McCleary because I’ve got to move somebody out because you can only dress 12. I just so much appreciate Drew McCleary — he’s a very selfless guy, and he said ‘OK, coach, I’ll do it.’”
With Derda’s production slowed down by Dawson and Keagan Larsh, Penn was paced by Burton’s 16 points. Tobias Patton and Carter Hickey each scored nine for the Kingsmen, who closed the season at 10-14.
Friday’s win represented the eighth head-to-head between Ogle and Penn coach Al Rhodes, a former Warsaw skipper and the Tigers’ all-time winningest coach. Ogle, who started at Warsaw as a JV coach under Rhodes, is now 5-3 against his former mentor. The back-to-back overtime wins are the program’s first since 2013, when Warsaw beat Elkhart Central in 2OT and Concord in three overtimes, also during sectional play.
Warsaw now faces a rematch with Northridge, who handed the Tigers a 59-55 loss at Ridge back on Jan. 10. Finals are set for 7:30 p.m.
“Penn didn’t quit. They kept coming back. We’ve got some momentum right now, and it feels good,” said Ogle.