If there was any game to not miss last week, it was the much-anticipated matchup between district rivals Wellington High School and Forest Hill High School on Friday, Jan. 24.
Both teams delivered the goods, going toe-to-toe in a contest that was decided in a fifth overtime period with the Falcons putting up a couple of last-minute scores to take the 65-61 win. Both teams entered the game with a combined 36 wins and just 6 losses, so it is no wonder a game between two of Palm Beach County’s best teams would battle through an overtime period to decide the winner.
Before the game entered overtime, the most dramatic moment of the night was at the very end of regulation when Forest Hill’s Donovan Draper missed a jump shot that was scooped up by Wellington’s Jagger Ruiz on the rebound. Ruiz launched a shot from the Wellington free-throw line that zipped through the net for an apparent thrilling buzzer-beater. The Wolverine bench flooded the court in celebration as the fans cheered, but the officials waved off the three-point shot and sent the game into overtime.
Wellington held the lead briefly early in the game, but Forest Hill was able to establish control and eventually lock down a 37-31 halftime lead. The Wolverines were outscored by just two points, 20-18, in the second period and four three-point baskets made the difference in the first half for the Falcons.
The Falcons were able to extend the lead by double digits to 48-36, despite Wellington outscoring them 12-11 in the third period. Wellington was able to perform more consistently on defense to close the margin as the game moved into the final period in regulation.
The Wolverines not only elevated their defensive play but also outscored Forest Hill 28-22 in the second half. In the fourth period, the Wolverines powered to a 7-2 point run to tie the game. Wellington had a chance to attack in the final seconds, trailing 63-61, but a traveling penalty gave the Falcons the ball back. A Wellington foul allowed Forest Hill to drop two more points in from the free throw line to secure the win 65-61.
“I really want to compliment our guys for the heart that they showed. They got down in double digits, and they fought back,” Wellington head coach Matt Colin said. “They got themselves back in the game, and they never quit.”
Ruiz hit 19 points on the night with a three-point basket, while Chris Walker totaled 13 points, a three-point basket and eight rebounds. Wellington fell to a record of 16-5 on the season and will travel to crosstown rival and district foe Palm Beach Central High School on Friday, Jan. 31 for a 7 p.m. tip-off.