Wolverines Settle For District Runner-Up Honors In Area Hoops

Wellington’s Jr. Gedeon moves the ball up the court while Royal Palm Beach’s Ryan Maxwell defends.

The Palm Beach Central High School basketball program hosted the Class 7-A, District 10 championship tournament last week. It was an event that boasted some of the best teams in the state.

On Tuesday, Feb. 11, the host Broncos lost in the quarterfinals to Royal Palm Beach High School 78-77, and Wellington High School moved in as the second seed to face off against the Wildcats in the semifinals on Wednesday, Feb. 12.

The Wolverines were tested early and often against Royal Palm Beach. The Wildcats managed to steal the lead twice in the second half, but Wellington did just enough to recapture the lead, and the game 68-67. For the Wolverines, Marvel Allen tallied 20 points, Jagger Ruiz totaled 17 and Chris Walker had 13. Ryan Maxwell led the Wildcats with 22 points.

Waiting in the wings was semifinal winner and top seed Forest Hill High School, which defeated Palm Beach Lakes High School 95-77. On Friday, Feb. 14, Forest Hill held off Wellington most of the night, and although the Wolverines came close to tying the game, they could not claim the advantage, falling 77-52 due in part to a strong fourth period performance by the Falcons.

Forest Hill earned the district crown with the victory, while the six-time district champion Wolverines settled for the runner-up spot. The new district configuration this season saw some of the best basketball in the state, with Wellington, Forest Hill, Palm Beach Central, Royal Palm Beach, Palm Beach Lakes and Jupiter high schools in a very competitive district.

The FHSAA reconfigured the basketball playoff system this season. Previously, the district champion and runner-up would be guaranteed to move into the regional tournament. This year, only the district champions are locked into the regional state tournament. There is now an at-large system. Teams qualify for a bid in regional play based on strength of schedule and overall record.

The teams waited until Sunday, Feb. 16 for the FHSAA to announce the at-large teams that will advance. Wellington received the nod as the fifth seed in the regional tournament, which is the highest possible seed for an at-large squad.

Last year’s state finalists still had a shot at repeating that appearance, but they had to get through the region’s fourth seed, Taravella High School, in Coral Springs on Thursday, Feb. 20. Results were not available by press time.