BY GENE NARDI
Friday, Feb. 10, marked not just a district title win for the Wellington High School boys basketball team; it was their fourth straight championship.
Wellington defeated John I. Leonard High School 60-57 at Seminole Ridge High School, the host venue for the District 9-9A tournament. It eventually came down to the two top-seeded teams in the final match-up. Wellington came in as the top seed, and the Lancers were the No. 2 seed.
Each team scored off its first shot of the game, which indicated the kind of contest the crowd would be in for. The two squads exchanged the lead several times early in the first period of play, but the Wolverines (24-3) gradually pulled away with a nine-point lead in the closing minute of the first period, 19-10.
Wellington carried its momentum into the second period, extending its lead by 13, 23-10, but the Lancers (14-10) continued to push back, cutting the margin to eight. The Wolverines dusted off the results of losing a few rebounds under the boards and clawed into a surge that lifted them to a 39-22 halftime lead. Wellington’s defense allowed just 12 points by the Lancers in the second, while putting up 20. Solid rebounds and accuracy at the rim proved the difference for Wellington.
The Wolverines continued to do just enough to maintain their lead over the Lancers, closing out the third period 47-39. The Lancer defense was able to slow down the usually strong Wellington offense in the third, holding them to just eight points. The stand helped put the Lancers back into the game.
The final period broke open, with each team trying to establish some control, but Wellington sustained a tight 55-53 lead with just over one minute remaining. The Wolverines controlled the ball well in the final minutes. Trent Frazier was sniper-like accurate from the free-throw line in the final minute to lift Wellington to the 60-57 district title win.
“Our school is good in many sports, but we’re also good in basketball,” said Wellington coach Matt Colin regarding his team’s fourth straight district title. “People have a lot of interest; our kids love coming to the games; and the school and the community are behind our program, so that means a lot.”
There is no disputing that Colin has put Wellington basketball on the map, winning four consecutive district titles, a regional title and a state championship, all within the last four seasons.
Frazier put up 27 points for Wellington, had two three-pointers and was seven for 10 at the free-throw line. Sage Chen-Young totaled 12 points, and Nico Toledo had seven points and a three-pointer for the Wolverines.
“We made some plays to stretch it back out to get a lay-up or to get to the free-throw line,” Colin said. “Give credit to them (John I. Leonard) because they came with a lot of energy and effort and clawed their way back into the game.”
Wellington hosted District 10-9A runner-up Atlantic High School in a regional quarterfinal contest Thursday night, but results were not available by press time.
ABOVE: The 2017 District 9-9A Champion Wellington Wolverines make the number 4 with their hands, indicating their fourth straight district title.