READING >> On a night when sophomore stud Lonnie Walker hit a wall, the Reading Red Knights needed a boost from elsewhere.
They got it.
Ty Gibson came off the bench to score 18 points — including eight in a row during crucial stretch late in the second quarter with the game very much up for grabs — and Damon Stern popped 21 as the No. 5 Knights (22-4) turned back a valiant Warwick squad, 58-50, in the District 3 Class AAAA first round Wednesday at Geigle Complex.
The Knights move onto a quarterfinal match at Governor Mifflin Intermediate School at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Warwick’s season ends at 14-9.
Walker has been Reading’s gunner this season, but on this night he struggled with only two points at halftime and nine for the game. He appeared to turn his left ankle on a drive during the second half but showed no ill effects despite clutching it and briefly staying down, scoring three points in the immediate aftermath.
That has to come as a sigh of relief for Reading head coach Rick Perez, who was already playing without starting guard Khary Mauras, who missed the game with an elbow infection.
“It’s the time of year where everybody is banged up,” Perez said. “It is what it is. They’re logging a lot of minutes and they’re learning what it’s like to play through that for this long of a period.”
That was not an issue for Gibson, a senior who provided a burst on a night when the Knights could have otherwise been caught in some trouble.
“Ty’s a senior and he knows his body,” Perez said. “He knows exactly what it is and what it looks like in the playoffs and what it takes physically and what the refs are looking for. He came out here and took full advantage of what we needed to do.”
Reading was caught on the seesaw early with the Warriors, who mixed defensive looks in an effort to stay with the Knights. For a while, it worked.
Warwick had the lead at three separate junctures of the first quarter, the last coming at 8-7 with 3:12 left in the opening stanza. Damian Soto was a defensive key for the Warriors, but it came at a cost.
Soto was effective in the role on the perimeter for stretches but the fouls piled up. Included in that was a verbal scrap with Reading’s Keyon McCutchen in which both players drew technical fouls in the second half. Soto led the Warriors at the break with eight points, but fouled out with 4:32 left in the ballgame.
The Warriors were outclassed on the boards, limited to several one-and-dones if the shots didn’t drop.
“They’re a very good basketball team,” Warwick head coach Jeff Landis said of Reading. “I thought our defense was fairly strong, but we just couldn’t keep them off the boards.
“Our (L-L) section is very competitive and we have several good teams, but [Reading’s] athleticism is something you don’t see; it was different than some of the teams we play. They play above the rim.”
James Willis came on the second half for Warwick and scored a team-high 13 points, including a trio of 3-pointers. But once Reading established an eight-to-10 point cushion, it was seldom pierced. Trailing 35-26 after three, the closest the Warriors got the rest of the way was the final margin, with the issue decided.
Stern was money from the line down the stretch for the Knights, pocketing 10 of his game-high 21 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter as Warwick tried in vain to cut into the deficit.