The Wellington High School boys basketball team hosted crosstown rival and district foe Palm Beach Central High School on Friday, Jan. 10 and narrowly defeated the Broncos in overtime 58-51 behind a game-high performance by Jagger Ruiz with 30 points.
Wellington (12-4, 3-0 in the newly aligned District 7A-10) had to weather a late rally by the Broncos (11-3, 1-3). The game eventually needed to be settled in a fifth overtime period.
The Wolverines opened up strong, firing out to a 5-0 lead, but the Broncos quickly adjusted and tied the game to open up what would be a thriller until the final buzzer. Wellington’s De’Ante Perez and Palm Beach Central’s Jenerrian Cross traded three-point baskets early. Both teams equaled 13 points at the end of the first period. The lead changed three times during the first half.
The second period was just as tight. The Wolverines gained a slight momentum advantage late in the period before the half to take a 26-22 lead into the locker room.
“Every night is a war, and I told the guys that the other day in practice,” Wellington head coach Matt Colin said. “It’s just like college basketball. Every night, in league, it’s a war. You’re always facing good teams.”
With the just over two minutes remaining to play in regulation, the Wolverines were hanging on to a 47-43 advantage. Palm Beach Central guard William Van Hook hit a three-point basket to bring the Broncos within a point. The game was tied at 47-47 from the free throw line for the Broncos as time ticked down on the scoreboard. The Broncos got a break off a Wellington foul and capitalized from the free throw line again, to reclaim the lead 48-47. Ruiz earned the equalizing point from the free throw spot after a Bronco foul with seven seconds left to play. Regulation play ended with both teams tied at 48-48.
Wellington seemed to have a bit more steam in the overtime period, outscoring the Broncos 10-3. Ruiz and Marvel Allen made it difficult for the Broncos to go blow-for-blow in the final period. The two combined for eight points, with Keon Kindred sinking a two-point basket to push Wellington to the 58-51 win.
Eduardo Diaz was the high scorer for the Broncos with 13 and two three-point baskets. Van Hook totaled 11 points, and Cross had two three-point baskets.
“The plays that were made at the end, they just have experienced guards on the perimeter who know how to go get baskets or fouls at the end when they need them,” Bronco head coach Jason Pitman explained. “We know when we come here, it’s always going to be a tough environment.”
With the win, the Wolverines remained unbeaten in league play at 3-0 and improve overall to 12-4. Palm Beach Central fell to 11-3, and 1-3 in league play.
“It was a huge lift that we had a player go out there finishing plays,” Colin said of Ruiz. “Especially how good their defense is and how physical it is, Jagger was the one guy who was able to slip in there and get some easy buckets just when we needed it.”