Despite a rough start, the Wellington School boys basketball team is headed to its first state championship game after beating Lima Perry 68-47 in a Division IV state semifinal March 23 at Ohio State.

The Jaguars trailed the Commodores 9-0 with 5 minutes, 50 seconds left in the opening quarter and 18-11 with 39 seconds left in the period before settling in.

Wellington answered with a 15-0 run and never led by fewer than six points the rest of the game.

The Jaguars improved to 22-7 and will play Cleveland Heights Lutheran East (19-9) in the state final at 2 p.m. March 25 at Ohio State. Lutheran East beat Delphos St. John’s 50-25 in the other semifinal March 23.

“It’s our first (state championship game) and we’ll have our hands full,” Jaguars coach Artie Taylor said. “It’s OHSAA basketball at its finest and we’re very happy to be a part of it.”

Perry, which finished 24-4, was held to five second-quarter points and trailed the Jaguars 32-23 at halftime.

Wellington committed 20 turnovers but limited the Commodores to 17-for-66 shooting from the floor, including 8-for-28 from 3-point range.

“With our length, we can carry a lot of real estate in there, and our game plan was to see if we could (force them to shoot) contested 3s,” Taylor said. “We also knew that they only play about six or seven players and that fatigue would be a factor.”

Wellington made 21 of 43 shots from the floor and went 21-for-27 from the free-throw line.

Solomon Pierre-Louis had 16 points, Dallas Patrick scored 11 and Noah Berry scored 10 to lead Wellington. Dustin Harder added nine points and 21 rebounds.

Orion Monford had 19 points to lead Perry but was just 7-for-20 from the floor.

“I knew with our stamina that we’d bounce back (from the slow start),” Harder said.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek