BY GENE NARDI
The Wellington High School basketball squad hosted Coral Springs High School in the Class 8A regional title game on Friday, Feb. 19 and fell to the visiting Colts 85-79 in double overtime. The Wolverines’ postseason run at defending their state title in Lakeland this year came to an end before a packed gymnasium in Wellington.
The Wolverines appeared poised to take their second regional title away from the Colts. They put together a strong attack early, led by Lester Gates and Trent Frazier, that lifted the team to a 13-4 lead. The Colts would kick back, but not enough. The first period closed with Wellington holding on 15-10.
Frazier and Alex Dieudonne ignited the Wolverine offense in the second period on a 15-8 run that locked down a 35-24 lead at the end of the half. Nick Brown contributed under the net to feed the ball to the hungry Wolverine offense.
In the second half, Wellington built a 16-point lead over what appeared to be a fatigued Colts squad. However, the Colts galloped back into the fight, chipping away at the Wellington lead with precision accuracy at the free-throw line. Momentum swung in the Colts’ favor, but the Wolverines did just enough offensively to maintain the edge. At the end of the third quarter, Wellington held to a 46-41 lead.
The fourth quarter proved to be epic. The Colts, midway through the fourth period, continued their sniper-like shots and took their first lead at 56-55 over a struggling Wellington squad. The game stayed close until the final buzzer.
The score was deadlocked at 60 entering the first overtime period. The game was tied again at 66 moving into the second overtime period. Gates fouled out late in overtime play with a total of 16 points. His absence in the final minutes may have been crucial.
Wellington did manage to take a brief lead in both overtime periods. However, the team was bested on the scoreboard 19-13 through the final four minutes of overtime play.
Wellington finished its season at 25-5, with its third consecutive District 9-8A championship crown.
Dieudonne was the scoring leader for Wellington with 31 points including two 3-point goals. Frazier tallied 21 points and three 3-point baskets.
ABOVE: Wellington’s Lester Gates goes up for the shot.