Loss To Rival Lake Worth Ends WHS Boys Basketball Season

Wellington’s Tor-el Robinson shoots a free throw during the district final game against Lake Worth High School.

While Wellington High School’s boys varsity basketball team had yet another season with more than 20 wins, it was an earlier end to the season than is normally the case for the Wolverines. This year, the squad lost in the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Class 7A, Region 2 quarterfinals when they fell, 49-46, to cross-county rival Lake Worth High School on Feb. 15. Wellington’s final record was 22-6.

That game against Lake Worth was the second time in less than a week, and the third in less than three weeks, that the two teams played one another. Of those games, Lake Worth won two and Wellington prevailed in one. Reviewing the total points scored in those games, Lake Worth outscored Wellington by one point — 163 to 162. Of the 12 quarters played during the three games, Lake Worth won six, Wellington won four and two quarters were tied.

Wellington won the first game, 59-54, on Jan. 26 in Lake Worth. The next game was the Class 7A, District 8 tournament final on Feb. 10, when Lake Worth won, 60-57, in a game played at Royal Palm Beach High School. The memorable part of that game was Wellington’s huge, fourth-quarter comeback. After three quarters, Wellington trailed Lake Worth by 19, 50-31. A 19-point deficit after three quarters is usually considered insurmountable, but Wellington head coach Matthew Colin and his Wolverines continued to play hard. For Lake Worth head coach Frank Baxley and his team, the fourth quarter of that game probably seemed like an eternity, as the Wolverines kept hustling, running, trapping and rebounding.

Colin said the key to his team’s comeback was its press defense.

“We got Lake Worth to turn the ball over a bunch, and that also got us out of having to run our half-court offense. The fourth quarter was mostly transition baskets off the press when we forced turnovers,” Colin said. “It’s something we couldn’t go to too early because of our short bench, having two starters injured, but the guys stepped up and pushed themselves.”

As the time crept dwindling, the Wolverines kept chipping away at the 19-point deficit. Throughout the fourth quarter, Colin made a series of effective substitutions. Wellington’s Lucas Moore and Rashard Reinhardt kept rotating in to play defense while Elyjah Freeman and Toney Collins, both of whom had four fouls, were returning to play offense.

With 19.2 seconds left in the game, Wellington’s Freeman was standing at the free-throw line with two throws to tie the game. Unfortunately, he missed the first free throw, but made the second, to pull his team within one point, 58-57. After a quick foul by Wellington, Lake Worth’s Jeremy Innocent stood at his free-throw line with two shots to extend his team’s lead to three points. He missed both shots.

Wellington grabbed the rebound, brought the ball up the court, and called a time out with 12.5 seconds left in the game. Trailing by one, Wellington had the ball with the chance to make a go-ahead and potential game-winning shot, which would have concluded a most-remarkable comeback. After the timeout, the inbound pass was thrown to senior Reggie Reinhardt. After dribbling near the top of the key, he passed the ball to Jeremy Tovar, who was standing near the baseline.

Unfortunately, Tovar was unable to secure possession, and the ball glanced off his right hand out of bounds, with 2.4 seconds left on the clock. Tovar aggressively bounced the ball against the floor and caught it, which caused one of the referees to call Tovar for a technical foul. Lake Worth’s senior point guard, Joseph Rogers, proceeded to make the first technical foul shot, which gave his team a two-point lead, 59-57. Rogers then missed the second free throw, and Innocent grabbed the ensuing rebound. He was immediately fouled by Wellington with 1.8 seconds left.

Innocent missed the first free throw and made the second, which gave Lake Worth a three-point lead with less than two seconds on the game clock. After catching the inbound pass, Reinhardt took one dribble and then took a Hail Mary shot from beyond half-court, which missed the mark as the final buzzer sounded. Lake Worth won, 60-57.

It was a heartbreaking loss for the entire Wellington team, which had a refuse-to-lose attitude in the fourth quarter.

After that game, Lake Worth earned an automatic bid into the Class 7A state playoff series as the No. 4 seed. Because Wellington also had a strong regular season, the Wolverines earned an at-large bid into the state playoffs as the No. 5 seed. So, according to the bracket, the fourth and fifth seeds (Lake Worth and Wellington) met for a third time on Feb. 15, this time at Lake Worth High School.

Not surprisingly, the game was close from beginning to end. Wellington led for the majority of the contest until Lake Worth’s Hedrens Barthelus made a three-pointer with roughly 80 seconds left in the game to put his team ahead for good. With just more than 30 seconds left in the game, Wellington had a chance to take the lead with a basket, but the Wolverines couldn’t convert. Just like the game on Feb. 10, when the final buzzer sounded, Lake Worth had another three-point win, 49-46.

With that win, the Trojans advanced to the regional semifinals, where they met top-seeded Oak Ridge High School from Orlando on Tuesday, Feb. 20.

As for Colin and his squad, they are already making plans for next year when they, most certainly, will have another close game or two or three against their latest rival, Lake Worth.

“The rivalry between Lake Worth and us has been going on for three years now,” Colin said. “Three years ago, we beat them for the district title. They have won the last two. I’ll say the positive for us has been that it has been different teams that we have had a rivalry with — Lake Worth, Forest Hill, John I. Leonard, Jupiter and Dwyer. We have been the consistent team in it.”