Wellington High boys basketball team back in FHSAA state semifinals

March 07, 2018
Senior Bryan Williams and the Wellington boys basketball team will play Miramar Friday night in a Class 9A state semifinal in Lakeland. The Wolverines are making their third appearance at the state tournament in four seasons. (Andres Leiva/Palm Beach Post)

Wellington’s last trip to Lakeland for the boys basketball state tournament ended earlier than it had hoped, with the Wolverines falling to Kissimmee-Osceola in a disputed semifinal game that ended on a buzzer-beating layup.

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One year later, the Wolverines are back at the RP Funding Center. And this time, they carry a perfect season along with them.

Wellington, which plays Miramar at 8 p.m. Friday in a Class 9A state semifinal matchup, is 30-0 entering the contest.

The Wolverines have shattered school records for total wins and consecutive wins — among others — and are eager to keep that streak going in Lakeland.

“It’s very hard for any team to do what we’re doing now regardless of talent,” senior guard Bryan Williams said. “But we stuck as a team, and took it one game at a time.”

Williams has been in this position before. He is one of a handful of Wolverines’ players — though the only starter — who played in last year’s state semifinal loss.

That game, which ended in a 52-50 win for Osceola, descended into controversy in the second half after the officials allowed a Kowboys player to shoot a pair of free throws, even though he wasn’t the player who was fouled.

Wellington coach Matt Colin, who led Wellington to the 2015 state championship, said the officials also erred in not granting him a timeout with 1.6 seconds remaining. The Kowboys went on to hit the game-winning basket with 1.2 seconds left.

Colin said the Florida High School Athletic Association later apologized for the officiating errors, and his team has long since put that game out their minds.

“Last year’s loss is yesterday’s news to this team,” he said. “We are focused on the present. We haven’t really talked about what happened last year. We want to be the best team we can be this year.”

So far, they’ve proven successful.

The Wolverines have won this year with a well-balanced offense, a tough defense, and timely shooting.

All were on display during the postseason, which featured two narrow Wellington wins followed by a 14-point victory over Deerfield Beach in last Friday’s regional finals. The Wolverines held the Bucks to just six points in the third quarter of that game, which helped extend a narrow halftime lead.

“We play great, tough team defense, and on offense we are a very unselfish team,” Colin said. “We have multiple players scoring in double figures on any given night. Our coaching staff has been terrific as well in helping making the season what it has become.”

Wellington will have to get past a talented Miramar team Friday in order for their season to continue.

The Patriots, ranked eighth in the state by MaxPreps — Wellington is No. 13 — have won 13 in a row, and have plenty of size, depth and athleticism.

“They are a very good team,” Colin said. “We plan to play them the same way we’ve played all our games this year, with tough team defense and some game-planning that will come out in the game.”