Less than 48 hours before the OHSAA suspended the remaining winter tournaments because of the coronavirus, the Wellington boys basketball team moved within one step of qualifying for the state tournament for the fourth time.
The Jaguars were to have played Jackson Center in a Division IV regional final March 13 at the University of Dayton after beating Fort Loramie 38-35 in a regional semifinal March 10 at the same site.
The state tournament was scheduled to begin Thursday, March 19, but has been postponed indefinitely.
The Jaguars improved to 18-9 with the win over the Redskins. Attendance for regional semifinals was limited the next day, and the OHSAA announced March 12 that all other regional semifinals and finals were postponed.
"I knew coming into this year that we had a lot of goals to reach and I was looking forward to tourney time since the beginning of the season," junior guard Marcus Stewart said. "I knew that the team, the group we had, was going to be ready."
Wellington and Fort Loramie were tied at 27 after three quarters.
The Jaguars took a 36-35 lead with 1 minute, 15 seconds left on a free throw by senior guard Connor Herrick and held on for the victory.
Sophomore forward Chase Ouellette had 13 points and five rebounds, to lead the Jaguars. Senior guard Evan Henry had six points and senior forward Elijah Meredith battled foul trouble and had five points and eight rebounds.
Wellington outrebounded Fort Loramie 31-25.
The Redskins, who got 11 points from Grant Albers and 10 from Caeleb Meyer, finished just 15 of 43 from the floor. Nick Brandewie, who was second-team all-Southwest District, was held to two points.
The Jaguars' state-tournament appearances came in 2003, 2016 and 2017. They lost in semifinals in '03 and '16 and lost to Cleveland Heights Lutheran East 43-38 in the state final in '17.
The past two seasons, Wellington competed in Division III.
Last season, Meredith was eligible only for the first 11 games because of the OHSAA transfer rule. He emerged as a first-team all-district honoree this winter.
"Marcus has been playing with us since his freshman year and Chase since his freshman year, and both of them, given the situation of our team at the time, had to step into a starting role with (Meredith not playing) his second half of (last season) given the transfer rule," coach Artie Taylor said. "Those guys had to grow up really fast. They were prepared for moments like this. We just have to stay true to ourselves."