For the first time in more than three years, a boys basketball team other than Sacred Heart won on the Gremlins home floor.
Warsaw held off a Gremlin rally in the fourth quarter Saturday to beat Sacred Heart 69-58 on Saturday, snapping Sacred Heart’s 35-game home winning streak. The Gremlins’ last home loss came on Jan. 2, 2010 when they fell 45-44 to Braymer.
“It feels really good,” said Warsaw coach Jared Wallace. “It’s a really good Sacred Heart team. Every year they’re really tough no matter where you play them. They’re a very well coached team and a very hard working team.”
Warsaw led by as many as 16 points late in the third quarter and 15 midway through the fourth. Sacred Heart rallied to get within six when Malik Hackett converted a 3-point play with 2:11 left in the game to make it 57-51 but that was as close as the Gremlins came.
“They played better than us,” said Sacred Heart coach Steve Goodwin. “They deserved to win.”
Warsaw scored 10 of its last 12 points from the free-throw line and for the game shot 27 of 40 from the free-throw line, attempting 32 in the second half alone. Sacred Heart hit 8 of 18 free throws.
“When that happens we’re probably going to lose,” Goodwin said. “We drove the ball pretty hard and we shot 18 free throws. We took the ball to the basket all night.”
Playing for the second time in 24 hours after a loss to Blair Oaks on Friday night, Warsaw moved away from its usual transition game to set up in a half-court offense.
“We didn’t want to run with these guys the whole time,” Wallace said. “It’s a very guard-heavy Sacred Heart team that can shoot it, so we wanted to make them do something other than run. That was part of our game plan. At the same time, they did a good job getting into their press, so we had to execute.”
For the game, the Wildcats scored three baskets in transition, getting most of the offense set up in the half-court set.
“We practice it all the time in practice,” said Warsaw’s Randall Sherman. “We can do both transition and half-court so it really didn’t feel all that different.”
Though they did not score a transition basket until the 2:03 mark of the first quarter, the Wildcats jumped out to a quick 11-4 lead, thanks to 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions, two by Sherman and one by Jesse Chamberlain. The Wildcats hit 7 of 19 from 3-point range in the game and 4 of 7 in the second half.
“As a coach, your life is easier when your guys shoot the ball well,” Wallace said. “We have talked about we have certain guys who are good outside shooters and in this game we did a better job of getting them open looks.”
Warsaw led 13-10 late in the first quarter before going on an 11-0 run capped off by a putback by Sherman with 5:27 to play in the half. Warsaw grabbed 16 offensive rebounds in the first half, which led to 17 second-chance points.
“A lot of that is not standing there on the back side when the shot goes off, which is what we have done a little bit before,” said Warsaw guard Brad Jelinek. “;If there’s a 3-pointer we know it’s going to be a long rebound so we track the ball down and go get it.”
The Wildcats opened the third quarter with 3-pointers on three straight possessions with Jelinek hitting the first and Chamberlain the next two. They extended the lead to 39-24 despite Sacred Heart hitting all of its shots over the same stretch on a jumper from Chance Spangler and drives from Hackett and Chase Lyles.
The lead was still in double digits in the fourth quarter until Lyles got a steal and a layup, then hit a pull-up jumper following another Warsaw turnover. Hackett hit a layup and a free throw moments later, but Warsaw put the game away with free throws.
Hackett finished the game with 21 points, 12 in the fourth quarter alone. Garrett Strange added 20 and Lyles scored 13.
Warsaw was led by Jelinek’s 19. He was one of four Wildcats to score in double figures, joined by Sherman with 16, Chamberlain with 15 and Joey Cooner with 12.
Warsaw (7-4) will open the Skyline tournament against El Dorado Springs on Monday. The Wildcats beat El Dorado Springs 74-26 on Nov. 27.
Sacred Heart (9-1) will host Windsor on Tuesday.