Warwick looked disjointed in the first half of its basketball game Saturday.
There was a reason for that, it turned out, that went beyond Garden Spot’s formidable upset bid.
After the Warriors’ 57-42 defeat of the Spartans in Lititz, coach Chris Christensen announced that one of Warwick’s lead dogs, senior Joey McCracken, has decided not to play hoops this season.
McCracken was one of the area’s top point guards before severely injuring his knee last February. He was also one of the area’s top quarterbacks in the football season, and that’s where his college future lies.
He told Christensen he was opting out Saturday, the same day he took a recruiting visit to IUP.
“Football’s his thing, and he just wants to be ready to go when he gets there,’’ Christensen said. “He knows what he needs to do, and that’s what this comes from. Nothing’s wrong.’’
Warwick retains big aspirations. It won 19 games, the Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Two title and reach the league championship game last year, partly without McCracken and despite other injuries.
Saturday was a struggle at times. Garden Spot had a lot to do with that.
The Spartans came off like a tough-minded bunch with little interest in who wasn’t playing. They defended Warwick well early, got some 3’s to fall, and led almost the length of the first half, cresting at 23-15 on free throws by a couple of non-starters, Ryan Conrad and Jordan Martin.
Sparty took a five-point lead into the final minute of the half. Then Warwick’s leading returning scorer, Kai Cipalla, got loose enough around the basketball for a six-point flurry that tied it at 25-all at the half.
The Warriors seemed to settle in after that. They put together a 19-6 third quarter to build a working margin. Garden Spot kept slugging, and it was a six-point game with six minutes left, but the Spartans managed just one more point.
“We had a lot of guys getting their first varsity experience,’’ Christensen said. “Once they got through a half, got the jitters out, we relaxed, and things got a lot easier.’’
Cipalla scored 20, with coaches from Lebanon Valley, F&M and West Chester there to watch him, despite missing nine free throws.
Garden Spot wasn’t permitting easy rim access, but the Warriors were an unsightly 21 of 39 from the foul line.
Warwick also got 12 points from junior guard Tate Landis, a slasher who is also on local-college radar.
Garden Spot (0-2) had eight scorers but no big scorers. Bruising big man John Dykie, who caused some problems for Cipalla on the defensive end, led the Spartans with nine points.
Warwick hosts Elizabethtown Monday.
After two games in less than 24 hours, Garden Spot gets some downtime before a third straight road game, at Solanco on Wednesday.