CENTER TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Chants of “Overrated” filled the Central Valley High School gym (aka ‘The Shoebox’), as Warriors’ senior guard Isiah Warfield stood at the free-throw line late in the first quarter of Tuesday’s WPIAL Section 2 Class 4-A matchup.
The chants were from a lively visiting Ambridge student section that was assembled right across from where Warfield was at the line and directly behind the Bridgers’ bench.
All the attention was on Warfield early on in the game. And he couldn’t seem to buy a hoop, despite getting relatively good looks at the basket. And on the other hand, Ambridge’s team as a whole was in-tuned and making things look easy on both ends.
Warfield started 1-for-8 from the field and had three fouls before halftime.
The chants from the student section got louder and louder, as Ambridge jumped on Central Valley and led by 15 at one point in the first half. Warfield, a Liberty commit, finished the first half with just six points, and his team trailed 32-20.
But the second half was a different story for the 6-foot-4 shooting guard. Warfield looked as if he completely erased his shaky first half and came out of the locker room more confident on the offensive end.
“I know the work I put in, outside of practice,” Warfield said. “I kept my confidence and knew I was going to be able to help the team.”
Even after picking up his fourth foul in the third quarter, and not being able to be very aggressive on the defensive side, Warfield showed off his full offensive package for the remainder of the game.
He made six consecutive field goal attempts at one point, and Central Valley (7-7, 3-5) cut their deficit to single digits. But Ambridge’s (10-3, 6-1) front-court size showed to be too much for the Warriors to handle and escaped with an 80-67 win.
Warfield, who is in his first and only season at Central Valley after transferring from Class 2-A powerhouse Sewickley Academy, finished the game with 26 points (20 in the second half), seven rebounds, and four assists. He’s averaging nearly 18 points per game this season.
At Sewickley Academy, Warfield was part of two WPIAL and one PIAA championships.
Central Valley is going to have to win their final four section games to have any shot at the WPIAL playoffs, and even if they make it, they’ll be without Warfield once they get there.
The PIAA upheld Warfield’s postseason ineligibility because of the new transfer rule. His final high school game will be at Peters Twp on Feb. 10, whether Central Valley makes the playoffs or not. But Warfield will be heading to a school next year that knows a thing or two about post-season basketball.
The Liberty Flames are coming off an NCAA tournament berth last season and are currently 19-1 this season and 5-0 in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
“I fell in love with the campus and the coaching staff,” Warfield said about Liberty, which is located in Lynchburg, Virginia. “I feel a personal connection, and I think they really care about me down there.”
Going to a school that is now a solidified Division-1 college basketball program, Warfield knows that he’ll have to improve certain aspects of his game to get minutes early on in his career.
“I know I definitely have to get stronger and work on getting my jumper more consistent,” Warfield said. “I mostly just want to get real strong and put some weight on.”
But right now, he’s trying to enjoy his final games and moments with his childhood friends. Despite attending Sewickley Academy for the past four years, Warfield has always lived in the same neighborhood in Center Township and went to school in the Central Valley School District from grades one through seven.
Central Valley’s four section games remaining are at Quaker Valley, home vs. Beaver, at New Castle, and home vs. Hopewell.
“I know we got to go to practice, and we got to work hard, real hard,” Warfield said about finishing out his senior year the right way. “We got to get better on defense, and just as a team; we have to stick together, keep confidence in each other, and get ready.”
WARFIELD SCOUTING REPORT
Offensive IQ is elite. He almost always makes the correct basketball play, regardless of the situation or how well he is playing.
He does a solid job creating his own shot with his lanky frame and tight handles.
His jump shot is quick enough, but a little awkward release, that makes it a bit inconsistent. He has a quick first step and has solid touch finishing
The apparent downfall is his ability to finish around the rim with contact and having to guard bigger guys on the other end because of his lack of strength right now.
It’s easy to call for the ball when you don’t have it, especially when you are the best player on the court. But he’ll have to learn to move without the ball more often at the next level.