Cocalico vs Warwick-Cocalico Tip-off Tournament

Warwick's Lauren Pyle (2) goes to the hoop against Cocalico during second half action of game 2 of the Cocalico Tip-off Tournament at Cocalico High School in Denver Friday December 6, 2019.

Have a night, Lauren Pyle.

Warwick’s junior standout had a memorable season opener on Friday, when she came up big in crunch time.

Pyle's baseline 3-pointer gave Warwick the lead for good with 1:09 to play in regulation. And she poked away the game-icing steal with just over one second to go, and sank both ends of a 1-and-1 at the other end to put the finishing touches on the Warriors' riveting 39-36 win over Cocalico in the first round of the Eagles' girls basketball tip-off tournament in Denver.

“That was a little nerve-wracking,” Pyle said. “But toward the end of the game there, with all that pressure, I thought we were prepared for it.”

Warwick will take on reigning Berks County champ Governor Mifflin, a 55-26 winner over Conrad Weiser on Friday, in the title game at 3 Saturday afternoon. Cocalico will square off against Weiser in the consolation game at 1:30 p.m.

Pyle, a Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Two all-star last winter, popped in a game-high 21 points, 16 in the second half, when Warwick overcame a slow start — Cocalico led 8-3 after the first quarter — and a 16-15 halftime deficit to build a 26-16 lead after an 11-0 blitz to open the second half.

“I felt like it was just a matter of timing,” Warwick coach Danny Cieniewicz said. “We were getting some decent looks early on, and I thought we played some really good defense in the first half. I thought that if we could keep that up, eventually we were going to catch our groove.”

The Warriors certainly did.

Pyle and Elise Balmer hit 3-pointers on Warwick’s first two trips of the third quarter, Lailani Batty rattled in a trey of her own, and Pyle's 3-ball capped the 11-0 run and the Warriors had a 26-16 lead with 5:40 to go in the third.

Warwick actually picked up some momentum heading into the half, when Jess Williamson drilled a 3-pointer at the second-quarter horn to cut Cocalico's lead to 16-15 at intermission.

“Seesaw kind of a game,” Cieniewicz noted. “We knew this one was going to go back and forth.”

And it did.

Undaunted, Cocalico punched back, opening the fourth quarter with an 8-0 spree. Hannah Custer and Kiersten Shipton hit consecutive 3-pointers to start the run, and Custer's backdoor layup with 3:16 to go in the fourth sliced Warwick's lead to 33-32.

With Shipton at the line shooting three shots after being fouled on a 3-point attempt, she made the middle attempt to knot the game at 33-33 with 1:31 left. And after Shipton (13 points) missed her third try, Olivia Sensenig swooped in, plucked the offensive board, and put back the miss for a 35-33 Eagles lead.

After a timeout, Pyle splashed a go-ahead baseline trey at 1:09. Cocalico had a couple of chances late, but Balmer (13 rebounds) pulled down a key defensive board, and Pyle's steal — and ensuing foul shots — iced it.

“Lauren is a gamer,” Cieniewicz said. “She does stuff in a game that you just can't coach.”

“I love working with this group, and I have some pretty big expectations for this group,” Cocalico coach Andrew Garrett said. “We're just young. So we could have packed it in down 10. But we came back, and we put ourselves in some great game situations. I'm hoping we'll grow from this.”

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