- Jodie Wagner Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wellington kept its school-record unbeaten streak alive Thursday night, and its boys basketball state championship hopes along with it.
Cornelius Butler hit two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to lift the host Wolverines to a thrilling 51-49 victory over Boca Raton in a Class 9A regional quarterfinal.
Wellington (28-0) never trailed in the contest, but fended off a late charge from the Bobcats on the way to earning the win.
Jonathan Philistin and Nico Toledo each scored 11 points for Wellington, which will face Atlantic on Tuesday in the regional semifinals.
Boca Raton closes the season 17-12.
“That was a very exciting high school basketball game,” Wolverines coach Matt Colin said. “That’s what it’s about. Playing in a playoff atmosphere, we had a great crowd. It was two stellar teams playing until the very last second.”
Wellington got off to a hot start, opening the game with a dunk by Texan Moulton, and then following with back-to-back 3-pointers to take an early 8-2 lead.
The Wolverines stretched their lead to seven points later in the quarter, helped by a trio of Boca Raton turnovers.
Wellington led 19-7 by the end of the quarter, and could have pushed its margin even wider with better free-throw shooting.
The Bobcats cut into the Wolverines’ lead to start the second quarter, with Cade Long’s outside shooting a big factor.
The senior helped pull Boca Raton with 22-17 on the second of his three triples in the quarter. Wellington went back up by eight later in the quarter, but the Bobcats closed strong to pull within 31-27 at halftime.
Long had a game-high 19 points at the half, while Toledo led Wellington with 11.
The third quarter remained tight. Neither team shot particularly well, but the Wolverines were able to stretch their cushion to 40-33 with 3:48 left on a thunderous Linton Brown dunk.
The Wolverines led 43-35 to close the third quarter, but Boca Raton stormed back.
Behind Long, a Rollins commit who finished with a game-high 28 points, the Bobcats pulled within three with 3:42 remaining, and tied it up at 49 with 46 seconds left.
Wellington took its time down the court, and earned a pair of free throws after Butler was fouled with 14 seconds remaining.
The junior guard, who injured his back in practice Wednesday and was unsure if he’d be able to play Thursday night, sank both.
The Bobcats got the ball back with a chance to win or tie the game, but Maxime Demeus’ 3-point attempt didn’t fall.
“I’m so happy for a kid like Cornelius,” Colin said of Butler. “He stepped up and knocked down two clutch free throws for us.”
Bryan Williams and Brown each scored 10 points for the Wolverines, who finished with four players in double figures.
Brendan Chisholm had eight points for the Bobcats, and Demeus added seven.
Atlantic 77, John I. Leonard 48: Reggie Duhart scored 18 points, Kadeem Wilks added 14 and Rodwens Albert contributed 10 as the Eagles defeated the Lancers in a Class 9A regional quarterfinal in Delray Beach.
Suncoast 55, Plantation-American Heritage 53: Jacobe Cox scored 13 points, Miclenby Geffard added eight points and 15 rebounds and Crisnel Francois contributed eight points and 10 rebounds as the Chargers (18-6) edged the Patriots in a Class 6A regional quarterfinal in Riviera Beach. Suncoast will face Fort Lauderdale-Stranahan in the regional semifinals Tuesday at home.
Benjamin 56, Miami Country Day 54: Ben Lubarsky scored 23 points, including the game-winner at the buzzer, helping the Buccaneers edge the Spartans in a Class 4A regional semifinal in Miami. Skylar Twyman scored 12 points and Kair Elam added 10 for Benjamin.
Oxbridge Academy 66, St. John Paul II Academy 59: Troy Joseph scored 18 points, A.J. Cajuste added 14 and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line and Dante Wilcox contributed 12 points as the ThunderWolves (19-4) held off the Eagles in a Class 5A regional quarterfinal in West Palm Beach.