The Wellington High School boys basketball team defeated rival Royal Palm Beach High School 56-45 before a capacity crowd Thursday, Dec. 21.
The win secured the Wolverines’ unblemished record at 8-0. The match-up was close throughout, despite the Wildcats’ 1-6 record. The team recently had several injured starters return who had missed the early part of the season.
While Wellington never relinquished the lead, Royal Palm Beach constantly chewed at the heels of the Wolverines, and eventually tied the contest 30-30 in the second half.
The Wildcats did a stellar job defensively sealing off the lanes to the rim inside, which forced the Wolverines to adjust offensively.
“They did a great job of guarding the rim,” Wellington coach Matt Colin said. “We didn’t get many easy buckets there, but when we finally got a few to drop, it helped stretch the defense out.”
Wellington’s speed proved deadly for Royal Palm Beach, with quick countering. When the Wildcats clawed back to close the gap at times, Wellington’s quick countering and ability to grab the rebounds made the difference. The Wolverines also improved on their free throws to help maintain the lead. They entered halftime with a 26-18 lead.
Royal Palm Beach collected four unanswered points to start the second half, including a three-pointer. De’Andre Morris was big for the Wildcats, with two three-point baskets in the second half. Royal Palm Beach tied the game up in the third period, with the Wildcats gaining some momentum.
Wellington quickly stole back the momentum, and recaptured the lead 35-30 in the closing seconds of the third period. Wellington’s speed was difficult for the Wildcats to manage. Nicholas Toledo was devastating to the Wildcat defense, tallying 15 points, most coming from right up the center.
Royal Palm Beach continued to push back, closing the margin to 44-37, but could not get the jolt they needed to grab the lead. Wellington held on in the closing minutes, playing solid defense to notch the 56-45 victory.
Jonathan Philistin had 15 points, and Linton Brown Jr. put up 12 points for Wellington. Morris was the high scorer for the Wildcats with 14, and Shaquille Peters totaled 10 points.
Both teams will compete in holiday tournaments over the winter break. Wellington will participate in the Atlantic Christian tournament, while Royal Palm Beach has entered the Don Wallen tournament in Martin County.