Cocalico’s comeback falls short in 43-36 loss to Warwick

By on December 18, 2013

Cocalico’s Casey Kerschner (left) drives past Warwick defender Jake Shillady during Monday’s game in Lititz. (Photo by Stan Hall)

Cocalico’s Casey Kerschner (left) drives past Warwick defender Jake Shillady during Monday’s game in Lititz. (Photo by Stan Hall)

It might’ve been fitting that the Philadelphia 76’ers game was on the television in the Warwick coaches room on Monday night.

Like the Sixers, the Warwick boys are trying to figure some things out early this season.

Cocalico, meanwhile, is looking for ways to find more consistent scoring with last year’s leading sniper Tucker Lescoe currently sidelined with an injury.

In the second Section One-Two crossover game for both teams, it was the Warriors who had a little bit more success, getting a game-high 11 points from Damian Soto and holding on for a 43-36 win over the Eagles in Lititz.

The win put Warwick (1-1 league, 2-3 overall) within reach of the .500 mark going into Wednesday’s game against Conestoga Valley, while Cocalico (0-2 league, 0-3 overall) hosted Hempfield still looking for its first win.

“There’s pieces here to become a good team,” Warwick coach Jeff Landis said, “and I think you see glimpses. I actually thought Friday night (against Lebanon) we did some really good things and played a really good team on their court into double overtime. We can’t accept a loss, but there’s signs. It’s just that we’ve got to cut down on the lulls we have.”

Monday’s win wasn’t without its lulls for the Warriors. And to Cocalico’s credit, they persevered after trailing by as many as 14 points, 26-12, late in the first half. The Eagles, who were averaging 31 points through their first two games, twice climbed within five in the fourth quarter, the last of those at 41-36 on sophomore Dante Haines’ triple with 1:28 remaining. But that’s as close as they got. Quick slashing guard Spencer Moser and Haines led Cocalico with eight points apiece.

“We had it at a point where we could have gotten it to a one-possession game,” Eagles skipper Travis Wealand said. “I thought our guys did a great job of grinding it out. We’re trying to figure out how to score the ball a little bit and to put it in the hole a little bit and to get back in the game was a credit to our guys. Yeah, the lead was a little too much in the first half, but we were right there at the end so that’s a credit to our guys.”

Their task at the offensive end of the floor became more challenging when Lescoe went out with an injury during football season. A year ago, the dynamic guard averaged 15.5 points per game as a freshman. But Wealand and his assistants are encouraged by the work ethic that their players are showing.

“We know we’re a little inexperienced and we’re just trying to grind through the games and get better and I think we’re doing that each game,” Wealand said. “I think we’re showing some good signs. When we have to crank up the defense a little bit, it’s been good for us and we’ve just got to start games better.

For Warwick, the game couldn’t have started much better. Taking advantage of four first-quarter turnovers, the Warriors got five points apiece from Soto and Jake Shillady, each with a ‘three,’ en route to a 14-7 lead.

Shooting 9-of-20 from the floor in the first half, Warwick opened the second quarter on a 7-0 run, and Nate Miller came off the bench to hit a 3-pointer to make it 21-7 with 3:59 remaining in the stanza.

“If you review it,” Landis remarked, “our main baskets were off of assists. That’s usually when we’re playing our best. Defensively, I think we’re getting there.”

Jordan Cipalla, Miller and Grant Zimmerman certainly deserved credit for their defense against Haines, who entered the game as the Eagles’ leading scorer with an 11.0 average in their first two games. But the sophomore guard was held to just two free throws in the first half.

Although Cipalla and Zimmerman combined for just two points, Landis couldn’t say enough about their performance.

“I really think defense is going to be the factor,” Landis said. “Like coach (Wes) Soto said, I thought Jordan Cipalla played a great game tonight. He took a charge, he guarded really well against one of their top scorers and Grant Zimmerman did a lot of good things. They were great. Like coach pointed out in the locker room, we took a charge. That should be a staple of the program and we’re not there.”

Moser’s triple cut Warwick’s lead to 21-12 with 2:29 remaining in the half, but Matt Pennypacker’s lay-up and Soto’s trey, one of seven for Warwick, made it 26-12. A late free throw by Moser halved the Warriors’ lead to 26-13 going to the locker room.

In the third quarter, junior John Waskowicz scored on a putback and converted a three-point play to ignite the Eagles on a 9-1 run. When Austin Noll sank back-to-back triples, the Eagles were within 34-28 with 1:46 left in the stanza.

“Our guys play hard and they know their roles,” Wealand said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to try to stay in the game early. We got down pretty big and then those guys coming off the bench, they’re ready to go. They’re prepared, they’re ready, they step in and we don’t miss a beat. So that’s great to have that.”

The Eagles still had momentum when senior forward Casey Kerschner dropped in a lay-up with 6:34 to go in the fourth, making it 36-30. But Adam Wagaman answered for Warwick at the other end of the floor, cashing in on an assist from Miller to put Warwick up 38-30 with 6:18 remaining.

“When Cocalico started cutting into that lead and we started quick-shooting, I thought the biggest possession of the game was when Nate Miller took his time, stepped in, bounced a pass to Adam Wagaman, who turned around and used his size to his advantage and finished,” Landis said. “The great thing about Adam is he does what Adam can do. Adam doesn’t try to do any more &tstr; he just knows what he can do and he does it.”

The Eagles weren’t done yet, however. D.J. Fabiani made the front end of two free throws, slicing Warwick’s advantage to 38-33 with 5:52 left, and then the Warriors’ Miller and Eagles’ Haines traded 3-pointers, making it 41-36 with 1:28 left.

But Cocalico missed its final three shots, and Warwick held on for the seven-point win.

“It was important, just for morale,” Landis said. “There’s some things going on internally where the only thing that’s really going to cure it is winning. The way it ended tonight … we got a win. A win is a win.”

Wealand, meanwhile, is confident that the wins will come for his team as well.

“This is a good group of guys,” he said. “They’re hard workers. The bench was great tonight, encouraging each other, they were giving high-fives when people were coming off and trying to motivate them from the sideline and that’s just a great thing for a team to have. You need those guys, that when it’s not their night, it’s somebody else’s night and just keep rolling with it. It’s still early. We’ve got plenty of games to play yet and a lot to prepare for and get better with.”

The Eagles also were in action Friday night at home, falling to visiting Manheim Township, 38-24 in a low-scoring crossover match-up.

Leading 11-8 at the half, the Blue Streaks surged to a 17-6 run in the third and cruised from there.

Haines led the way for Cocalico with 13 points.

Up next, Cocalico hosts Hempfield Wednesday night in the Nest before beginning Section Two play Friday at Elizabethtown.

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