Wellington boys improve to 30-0; earns state berth

10:16 p.m Friday, March 2, 2018 Sports
Wellington guard Nico Toledo looks to pass around Deerfield Beach’s Michael Johnson during the Wolverines’ victory Friday night in Wellington. (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

Records have fallen all season for the Wellington boys basketball team, and Friday night was no exception.

The unbeaten Wolverines notched their 30th win of the year — and earned a trip to Lakeland along with it — in a 55-41 victory over Deerfield Beach in a Class 9A regional championship game.

Johnathan Philistin scored a game-high 15 points, and Nico Toledo added 11 points and six rebounds to lead Wellington, which held a narrow halftime lead before pulling away in the third quarter.

The Wolverines will play Miramar in the state semifinals next Friday at RP Funding Center in Lakeland.

The state semifinals berth is Wellington’s third in four seasons. The Wolverines won the state championship in 2015.

“It’s awesome,” Wolverines coach Matt Colin said. “It’s a great feeling. It’s a great feeling for them to go back to Lakeland. This is one of the goals we set at the start of the season, and we’re so happy to be able to achieve it.”

Both teams started slowly on offense, and those struggles persisted for much of the first half.

The Bucks (22-9) opened the game with a 3-pointer, but didn’t hit another shot until 2:01 remained in the first quarter.

Wellington was a little better with its shooting, but only hit four field goals in the quarter — none from long range — and led 12-9 after the first eight minutes.

Wellington ran into turnover trouble in the second quarter, which allowed Deerfield Beach to get back into the game.

The Bucks tied it at 18 on two Lou Jerome free throws with 3:38 remaining, but they could not get themselves untracked offensively after that.

Wellington was held to just 12 points in the quarter, but still led 24-20 at halftime.

Bryan Williams led all scorers at the half with eight points, while Toledo — who had to leave the game briefly late in the second quarter after he bloodied his nose while playing defense — had seven.

Wellington continued to clamp down on defense to open the second half, holding the Bucks scoreless until 3:24 remained in the third quarter.

During that span, the Wolverines opened a 31-20 lead, and stretched their advantage to 38-26 on a Philistin 3-pointer — Wellington’s only triple of the game — to close the quarter.

Deerfield Beach pressed hard on defense in the final quarter, forcing a handful of Wellington turnovers that allowed the Bucks to get within nine.

But Deerfield Beach also sent Wellington to the free-throw line regularly, and the Wolverines converted, helping seal the win.

“We knew they could press,” Colin said of the Bucks. “I thought we could have done a little bit better of a job handling the press. But at the end, we were able to be strong with the basketball, and make enough plays and hit enough free throws to stretch it out.”

Williams finished with 11 points for Wellington, while Cornelius Butler added nine and Linton Brown had eight.

Jerome led Deerfield Beach with 13 points.

Tampa Catholic 68, Oxbridge Academy 63: The Thunderwolves (20-9) fell to the Crusaders in a Class 5A regional final in Tampa.