When Linton Brown sank a buzzer-beating three-point shot to finish a strong first quarter, Wellington’s boys basketball team appeared well on its way to routing visiting Atlantic.
Instead, the Eagles lingered around, especially by capitalizing on turnovers and drawing fouls. But the 11-point first-quarter difference was critical for the Wolverines, as they hung on to win, 68-65, continue their undefeated season and advance to the Class 9A regional finals.
Led by Bryan Williams’ 21 points and Brown’s 20, Wellington (29-0) excelled at spreading its offense across a number of scorers early in the game. Three Wolverines had successful first-quarter field goals, while the Eagles (17-11) relied solely on guard Rodwens Albert for early points.
Wellington coach Matt Colin credited the passing of Williams and Nico Toledo for the team’s offensive success. Both players consistently connected with teammates who had clear shots or open lanes to the basket.
But what happened away from the ball was just as important, Colin said. The coach said his players were effective at setting screens to give the Wolverines chances to score.
“They executed to a T,” Colin said. “That’s why we were able to find some guys for open shots.”
Some of those shots came at crucial points in the game. Standing in the corner for two second-quarter possessions, Brown hit back-to-back three-pointers for Wellington.
The second shot, courtesy of a fast-break assist from Toledo, extended the Wolverines’ lead to 15 with about two and a half minutes left in the first half.
Open shots couldn’t negate every Atlantic rally, however. The Eagles opened the second half on a 7-0 run and the fourth quarter on an 8-2 streak.
Albert led all scorers with 23 points, while Atlantic’s Reginald Duhart added 11 points and a handful of blocks on defense.
Forcing turnovers and difficult shots, the Eagles’ defense kept them in the game late in the fourth quarter, when they cut the lead to one point with fewer than 30 seconds left.
Colin said those turnovers give his team something to work on as it prepares for the regional finals.
“For the whole season, we really didn’t turn the ball over much, you know,” Colin said. “But then in some of these crucial moments … we tend to turn it over. So we need to get better there.”