Warwick Digs In, Rides Strong Second Half Performance Past E-Town As Warriors Remain Perfect
Written by: Andy Herr on Wednesday, January 27th, 2021
It’s been awhile since the Warwick Boys Basketball program has been able to boast the fact that they may have the best team in the entire Lancaster-Lebanon League. Like for the first time in an entire generation “awhile.” Thankfully, for a program that has a rich and storied history that had fallen on a considerable amount of lean years for what roughly amounted to the better part of two decades, the Warriors have done a dizzying about-face as far as fighting for the upper echelon of league supremacy — a large portion of which can be directly linked to hiring of Chris Christensen as the head coach and CEO of the program a few years ago — as Warwick entered the 2020-21 campaign in search of their third consecutive trip back to the league finals. If nothing else, and quite most importantly, Warwick’s remarkable turnaround of late has shown those youngsters coming up through the pipeline that Warwick Basketball can indeed be a proven and consistent winner as opposed to fighting to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack as they had for what must have felt like an endless amount of years.
As mentioned, while it may be unfair to place an expectation upon a high school team somewhere in the vein of, “League title or bust,” that quite arguably is the legitimate barometer placed upon Warwick this season. It’d be hard to argue too considering the Warriors brought back arguably the best all-around player in the L-L League in Kai Cipalla, perhaps the most the underappreciated floor general on the local hoops scene in Tate Landis, along with a supporting cast that has taken their turn at various moments in stepping up and serving as the perfect complimentary pieces to help mold this Warriors bunch into the prohibitive preseason favorite. And yes, while the Warriors’ starting rotation did take a bit of hit in the loss of Joey McCracken who decided to solely focus on his upcoming football future – a smart decision too considering his recent commitment to play quarterback for the Maine Black Bears — the entire sum of all the Warwick parts was nonetheless built to withstand such a loss even though McCracken was a consistent presence in the Warriors’ lineup for what had been the entirety of his high school career. To be sure, while Warwick hadn’t been totally immune to various hiccups within games along the way thus far, the gang from Lititz still had a perfect record to their name when they rolled into Elizabethtown on Tuesday evening.
Ironically, the team that seemed to give Warwick the most fits and greatest challenges following the Warriors’ move down to Section Two a few years ago? The E-Town Bears.
Speaking of fast-rising programs over the last half decade or so, any conversation of the like that doesn’t include E-Town is simply not worthy of time or merit. In fact, in what had amounted to head coach Rocky Parise’s four-year career in presiding over the Bears’ bench, E-Town was able to add a handful of 1,000 point scorers to the program’s history, remain a consistent threat to fight for a divisional title, and oh yeah, also win the school’s first state tournament game, a feat which Parise and the Bears accomplished last season. Not too shabby in the span of less than half a decade when you consider that E-Town essentially was able to flip their win/loss record into a complete 180 reversal during that time. Needless to say, the job was certainly in a much better position when the duties were handed over to Lee Eckert prior to the start of this season, Parise’s top assistant during those years during the Bears’ rise to prominence who was more than ready at taking his turn at running the program. Granted, while the results have been a bit of a mixed bag thus far for E-Town this season, there’s no applicable to reason to believe that the Bears will suddenly dive back down to the bottom-rung of the Section Two standings anytime soon.
And so, for a season that has not been without its fair share of wild ups and downs already, it was almost cathartic in some ways to see E-Town and Warwick –perhaps the two most steady programs within the L-L of late—square off against one another on Tuesday night. However, it proved to be just a little more cathartic for Warwick at the end of 32 minutes.
As expected, the intensity between the two sides out of the gates couldn’t have been more palpable. In fact, neither team was able to garner much of anything in terms of separation from one another in the early going with the defensive intensity already starting off at a fever pitch. In fact, whenever one team one would be able to jump out to any sort of lead, the other would come right back. Case in point, a Tech Gonquoi follow bucket for E-Town which made it a 4-2 Bears’ lead, only to then see Warwick’s Kai Cipalla retaliate right back with a drive to the cup on the Warriors’ next possession to follow suit, knotting things back up at 4-4. Over the course of the next few minutes, Cipalla continued to have the hot-hand for the Warriors as the 6’4 senior forward’s smooth turnaround jumper at the one-minute mark of the opening quarter made it a 8-4 Warwick cushion before the Bears proceeded to tally the next four in response, the last three of which came by way of an NBA trifecta sunk by E-Town 6’3 junior forward, Patrick Gilhool, just moments before the first quarter horn sounded.
At the onset of the second frame, the Warriors’ baton was then passed off to Tate Landis.
To be sure, Landis did not disappoint when it came to orchestrating the show for Warwick as the 5’11 junior guard proceeded to score Warwick’s first five points to start the second period, capping the rally off with a trey against the E-Town zone, making it a 13-10 Warwick lead with five minutes left to go before the break.
However, just when Warwick had likely felt good about things, the Bears came roaring right back.
After spotting the visitors the 17-12 lead just after the midway point of the second quarter, two timely buckets courtesy of E-Town’s Matt Gilhool and Braden Cummings – a freshman and sophomore respectively – immediately sliced Warwick’s cushion down to the slimmest of margins at 17-16. Thankfully, as far as the Warwick contingent was concerned, the Warriors were able to find their rebuttal in the form of Avery Sapp as the 6’0 junior guard splashed in a badly-needed triple to help turn the tide in favor of Warwick as the Warriors went on into the locker room with the 23-18 advantage once the first half ultimately did expire.
Throughout much of the game’s opening 16 minutes, Cipalla and Landis had been the key catalysts in terms of steering the Warriors’ ship. In that regard, it probably shouldn’t have been much of a surprise to see the two once again spearhead the charge coming out of the intermission as well.
For as well as E-Town had been able to scrap and claw up until that point, the oncoming Warwick wave seemed to be just too much as the second half wore along. In fact, following a Landis take to the rack on the Warriors’ opening possession out of the break, followed then by a second-chance tip-in from point-blank range thanks to Cipalla, the Warwick lead had suddenly ballooned-out to double figures at 31-21 with 4:30 left on the third quarter clock.
From there, the red-clad guests only continued to build upon their existing cushion.
Despite the Bears coming back to within single digits at 33-25 following a nice flip inside from E-Town 6’2 senior forward, Luke Pierson, the Warriors proceeded to tally the next four –all of which came from Landis — as the junior guard’s theft and subsequent layup made it a 37-25 Warwick lead before a nice 3-ball just mere moments before the third quarter buzzer courtesy of Warwick 6’0 junior forward, Chase Krall, propelled the Warriors into the final stanza with what had felt like a commanding 40-27 lead.
Once inside the final eight minutes, it only proved to be more of the same in terms of the oncoming Warwick onslaught.
In fact, after Cipalla was able to sink another jumper, good for two more en route to his game-high 22-point performance, the Warwick lead was the largest it had been all game long with the Warriors now well out in front at 45-31 with 5:01 remaining. And while E-Town would be able to claw back to within ten at 45-35 following buckets by way of Matt Gilhool and Tech Gonquoi in back-to-back fashion, a Cipalla trey on the Warriors’ ensuing offensive trip seemed to be rather fitting given the preceding events of the entire evening before a Landis bucket inside shortly thereafter helped put the finishing touches on Warwick’s impressive 56-38 triumph over E-Town on Tuesday night, a win which gave the Warriors a season sweep over their fellow Section Two counterparts in this new, blossoming rivalry between the two schools.
NEXT UP: After getting past E-Town with relative ease this season, the Warriors will now turn their collective attention to sweeping past all their divisional competition, and perhaps the Section One crossover games as well, for the remainder of this season. In many ways, that is certainly a reasonable possibility. But perhaps Warwick’s greatest litmus test will come when the Warriors match up with the Lebanon Cedars – a series that will ultimately determine the eventual winner of Section Two this season – with the first date between the two now set for next Friday, February 5th in Lebanon thanks to the first matchup originally slated for this past Friday being postponed due to COVID-related issues.
For E-Town, whether by necessity or by choice, the Bears will only get the opportunity to square off against L-L League competition this year, just another caveat that comes coupled with trying to play ball while in the middle of a pandemic. In terms of their next assignment, the Bears will look to shake free from their current two-game losing skid when they travel to Conestoga Valley this Friday against a Buckskins squad eagerly awaiting the rematch between the two given E-Town’s emphatic 56-33 victory over CV just two weeks ago.
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