In basketball, much like in life, sometimes things don’t exactly go according to plan. Take this year’s Warwick holiday tournament as a prime example.
Coming into the week, the likelihood appeared to be strong that Warwick and Lancaster Catholic would end up playing against each other on the tourney’s final evening. The only thing was, most probably would have assumed that they would be doing so in the championship match. Well, after the first night of action which took place in Lititz on Wednesday night, the Crusaders and Warriors would in fact eventually meet up against one another on Thursday evening. However, after dropping opening round contests to Bishop McDevitt and Garden Spot respectively, the much-anticipated Warwick & Lancaster Catholic grudge match would now take place in the consolation round as opposed to the predicted championship.
And while there may not have been a trophy on the line in this one, it did not make Thursday night’s contest any less important. Why? Well, to put it in plain and simple terms, both teams were looking for an added boost of momentum coming out of the holiday break as both sides prepare to chase down section championships when the Lancaster-Lebanon League slate resumes at the start of the new calendar year.
Speaking of momentum, the first dose of it would be prescribed to the home-standing Warriors on this night, as Warwick was able to open up the game with a 5-2 advantage after a 3-ball cashed in by Warwick senior guard, Colby Martin. And while the Crusaders would promptly answer back and tie things up at 5-5 after a trifecta dialed up by well-known Crusader marksman Johnny Besecker, the Warriors would proceed to outscore their guests 8-2 over the new few minutes, eventually jumping out in front 13-7 following a steal and finish by Warwick senior guard Trysten George with 3:27 left to play in the opening period.
However, while they may have been down, one often knows better than to ever count the Crusaders out. Sure enough, Lancaster Catholic would come roaring back over the next few minutes, eventually closing the deficit down to just two at 15-13 after a smooth pullup jumper by 6’6 junior forward David Kamwanga, which is where things would remain once the final 1:10 ticked off the first quarter clock.
Once the second quarter got underway, the Crusaders were able to pick up right where they left off at the end of the opening period. In fact, Catholic was able to totally erase their early-game hole and tie things up at 15-15 following a steal and finish by Besecker, effectively capping off the Crusaders’ first offensive possession of the second stanza.
From there, Lancaster Catholic was able to overtake the lead thanks a 3-ball splashed in by the ultra-talented and multi-faceted Kamwanga, a bucket which gave the visitors from Lancaster City the 22-19 advantage in the closing moments of the second.
But as is expected when talking about Warwick, the Warriors are not a team that is easily outdone when it comes to 3-point shooting. And right on cue, 6’2 senior guard Ryan Shirk was able to fire in a triple to answer Kamwanga’s, knotting things up at 22-22, which is where the score would stand once retiring into intermission.
And while the first half was largely a trading of volleys back and forth between either side, the second half would go a little bit different. Well, a lot different for Lancaster Catholic that is.
Coming out the halftime recess, the Crusaders looked to be inspired by the message delivered just moments earlier in the locker room. And inspired they would be.
After four straight points from 6’5 senior forward Dwayne Caine which got immediately got the party started for Lancaster Catholic to begin the second half, the visitors only continued to bully their hosts over the course of the next minute or so, officially capping things off with an 8-0 run out of the chute, effectively jumping out to the 30-22 lead with just 1:12 having expired off the third quarter clock.
From that point on, there would be no turning back for Lancaster Catholic the rest of the night.
As the third quarter trudged along, the Crusaders’ lead would eventually swell to nine following a trademark triple canned by you guessed it, Johnny Besecker, good for three of his 12 points on the evening. Shortly after that, the cushion would then grow to double digit proportions following a finish at the tin by 6’3 senior forward Justin Baker, making it a 37-26 affair in favor of Lancaster Catholic with 3:45 left to go in the third. From there, Catholic would be able to extend their lead even more so following a sweet dish inside from Dwayne Caine to Devin Atkinson, pushing the Crusader lead up to a baker’s dozen at 39-26. Speaking of 13 points, that is precisely where the difference between Lancaster Catholic and Warwick would lie once the third quarter expired once and for all with Catholic in front, 43-30.
Try as they might, the Warriors continued to make a go of it once the final quarter got underway with Colby Martin draining yet another triple, cutting the Crusaders back down to ten on the Warriors’ first offensive possession of the final stanza.
But just as Warwick had seen all game long leading up to that point, David Kamwanga was just a force to be reckoned with as the Crusader junior immediately responded by going on 4-0 run to answer Warwick’s early fourth quarter challenge, upping the Lancaster Catholic to 14 at 47-33. Staying on the subject of Mr. Kamwanga, he would go on to finish his superb night of work by tallying 15 points to pace the Crusaders’ effort.
And with Lancaster Catholic keeping Warwick at arm’s length for a majority of the final quarter, the waning moments of Thursday night’s affair provided to be an opportunity for the core group of either squad to check in and leave their imprint on the game.
With that in mind, Warwick 6’1 sophomore guard Kai Cipalla immediately left his mark on the action by sinking a 3-ball, showing off his marksmanship and fearless ability that he will bring to the Warrior ballclub for years to come. Speaking of young Warrior weapons, fellow sophomore Corbin Horst also got his opportunity to get on the floor against Lancaster Catholic. And as fate would have it, he too would deliver in a big way by delivering with a trifecta of his own, cutting the Catholic lead back down to 13 at 59-46 in the closing moments.
Yet while Warwick was receiving nice contributions off their bench, Lancaster Catholic would be sure to do the same as well.
Never more so was that apparent than with 6’0 sophomore Ross Conway checking in for the Crusaders and getting into the scorer’s book by finishing with a lay-in in transition, helping generate a rousing roar of approval for the appropriately named student section located right nearby, “The Crusader Crazies.” Fittingly, for a game that featured a laundry list of highlights in the game’s final minutes by up and coming underclassmen, it would be a senior who would go on and close things out, as a pair of freebies at the charity stripe cashed in by Andy Santiago would put the period on Thursday night’s contest, sending Lancaster Catholic home with the 63-48 over the home-standing Warwick Warriors.
NEXT UP: As mentioned, both Lancaster Catholic and Warwick have positioned themselves beautifully once regular season play resumes thanks to their thorough work in the first part of the early season, as both the Crusaders and Warriors have real, tangible opportunities to finish as Section 2 and Section 4 champions this season once the dust totally settles.
For the victors, Lancaster Catholic, the Crusaders will get back on the horse with a tricky road trip up north to tangle with a dangerous Northern Lebanon squad next week which isn’t exactly dipping your toe into the water to get things rolling again. Don’t forget, the Crusaders needed a Johnny Besecker triple at the horn in order to prevail last season in their last trip to Fredericksburg.
For Warwick, the Warriors will likely focus on practice time over the next few days before they prepare to do battle against the E-Town Bears at home next Friday night. And yet even though Warwick has a consider leg-up on the competition given their scintillating 4-0 start to league play, the Section 2 race very likely could come down to E-Town and Warwick, making next Friday night’s tussle sizzle with an extra hint of juiciness.