WHS Basketball Boys Claim State Tournament Berth

Linton Brown goes up for two points for Wellington.

The Wellington High School boys basketball team powered through the Class 9A regional playoffs and continued to make school history, improving to an undefeated 30-0 season record and earning a berth in the state final four.

After doing just enough in the regional quarterfinal game against Boca Raton, the regional semifinal turned out to be a nail-biter against Atlantic. The Wolverines relied on Cornelius Butler to drop in two free-throw buckets with 14 seconds remaining to lift Wellington to the 68-65 victory over the Eagles.

That win set the stage for Wellington to host Broward’s Deerfield Beach High School. The 55-41 regional title win over the Bucks sends Wellington to Lakeland for the state final four for the third time in four years.

“It’s awesome. It’s a great feeling to be able to go back to Lakeland,” Wellington head coach Matt Colin said. “It’s one of the goals we set for at the first of the season, and I’m so happy the guys were able to achieve it.”

The Wolverines played stellar defense through the night. After the first period, Wellington held the Bucks (22-9) to a single digit, with a 12-9 lead, after Deerfield broke the ice early with a three-pointer to start the game. Next, the Wolverines went on an eight-point run, forcing the Bucks to call a time out. Jonathan Philistin and Texan Moulton played a key role in the success of Wellington’s defense.

The game was quick-paced as Deerfield continued to press. Wolverines rarely faltered, sealing off the lanes to the bucket. Wellington managed to secure a 24-20 lead going into the locker room.

“They’re a very good team, and we knew they could press,” Colin said. “I thought we could have done a little bit better job handling the pressure, but at the end, we were able to control the basketball and make enough plays.”

The Wolverines operated like a machine, leading the Bucks 38-26 by the end of the third period. The Wolverines faired better in the second half at the free-throw line, which helped their cause. Frustration began to show from the Bucks, as the fouls

continued. Wellington showed discipline and continued to extend the lead. Their efforts secured a 55-41 advantage at the buzzer for the team’s second straight regional title.

Philistin put up 15 points, and Nicholas Toledo and Bryan Williams each totaled 11 points.

“The first half I didn’t do anything, and it made me angry,” Philistin said. “So, this part I had to do something. I’m just trying to do it for the team.”

The win is special to Williams, with last season serving as a reminder of his trip to Lakeland. “This is a special moment,” he said. “If we can get this one more, I think we can win it all. We have to take it one at a time.”

Wellington travels to Lakeland Friday night to play Miramar in the first round of the Class 9A state final four at 7 p.m.