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Carroll loses focus in 2nd half, hangs on

– With bigger games looming just days away with the beginning of sectionals for Carroll and Warsaw, perhaps neither team could be blamed for losing focus at times in the regular-season finale.

They just took turns in doing so, which led to a down-to-the-wire finish as the Chargers held on for a 44-40 victory Friday night at Carroll.

Carroll, which snapped a two-game losing streak and finished the regular season at 14-8, built what seemed to be a comfortable 23-11 lead at halftime but then struggled in the second half and watched as Warsaw got within four points late before finally putting the Tigers away.

“The second half I thought we kind of lost focus to what we were doing,” Carroll coach Marty Beasley said. “They got a little more physical, and we didn’t respond to it. We got a little taller and weaker. Therefore they were able to take advantage of some situations and we did a poor job recovering. We were lucky to come out with a win.”

The Chargers – who next Friday face the winner of Tuesday’s DeKalb-Northrop game in the East Noble Sectional – looked tournament ready in the first half when they saw four different players hit 3-pointers and used their pressure defense to force Warsaw into nine turnovers while attempting only 10 shots. The Tigers (11-9) did not score in the final 5:21 of the half.

“In the first half, Carroll’s defensive pressure was way better than our ball handling,” said Warsaw coach Doug Ogle, whose team will face Goshen on Tuesday in the Elkhart Central Sectional. “We’re not athletic enough to simulate Carroll’s pressure. They’re strong and quick and long and I was hoping we would be able to handle it better, but we didn’t.”

In the second half, the roles were reversed.

Jeremy Kalonji scored six of his team-high 13 points in the third quarter to help Carroll maintain its cushion; his basket with 3:15 to play gave the Chargers a 29-18 lead. But the Chargers added only two free throws from Josh Gilbert, and Warsaw’s leading scorer Jordan Stookey got going with nine points to make it 31-26 at the end of the quarter.

Jake Mangas, who had a game-high 15 points, scored nine in the final quarter to help the Tigers cut the deficit to four on five occasions. But Carroll’s Jake Graham hit four free throws in the final 25 seconds to seal the win.

“It’s important to get a win,” Beasley said. “Hopefully this is kind of a wake-up call, that, ‘Hey, we’ve got to compete for four quarters.’

“I think we can guard. I love our effort. We’ve got some guys that are shooting the ball pretty well. We have some guys that can do certain things. But we’re only going to be as good as our whole.”