ATHENS — Knowing how much of a height advantage it held against Portsmouth Clay helped the Wellington School boys basketball team build confidence March 17 in a Division IV regional final at Ohio University.
The Jaguars outrebounded the Panthers 44-27, including 17-10 offensively, and advanced to their second consecutive state tournament with a 70-56 victory.
Wellington will play Lima Perry in a state semifinal at 8:30 p.m. March 23 at Ohio State.
“We’ve got (tall) guys and that’s what we’re supposed to do, get on the boards,” sophomore guard Dallas Patrick said. “We just played with more intensity and didn’t let up.”
Wellington, which improved to 21-7, scored the game’s first 11 points and led 17-2 with 1 minute, 35 seconds left in the first quarter before Clay finally got untracked offensively.
The Panthers hit seven 3-pointers during the second quarter and cut the Jaguars’ lead to 30-26 by halftime.
Wellington, however, started to seize control for good late in the third quarter.
Dustin Harder and Solomon Pierre-Louis each hit 3s, and the Jaguars led 51-43 heading into the final period.
Harder is a 6-foot-9 forward who had five of his eight rebounds during the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, and Wellington completed three put-back baskets and got a 3-pointer from Pierre-Louis to build a 60-48 advantage with 3:57 to go.
Noah Berry, a 6-7 forward, had 15 rebounds.
Clay, which beat Grove City Christian 100-95 in two overtimes in a regional semifinal March 14, had a 21-game winning streak snapped and finished 24-3.
The Panthers were held to 18-for-51 shooting. Cameron King shot 3-for-7 from 3-point range and finished with 15 points but was just 5-for-18 from the floor overall.
“I told them that (our rebounding) was bailing us out,” coach Artie Taylor said. “When you’re playing defense, one of the most back-breaking things is to give up an offensive rebound.”