ROCKY RIVER — The calendar wasn’t flipped two months early. And the location wasn’t Elyria.
But Friday night’s heavyweight matchup between Lutheran West and Wellington had the look, feel and pace of a pressure-packed postseason game.
If all goes according to plan, the Longhorns and Dukes should meet at the Division III sectional or district tournaments at Elyria High. But in basketball terms, it’s an eternity until late February. And no one can predict where these two teams will actually be by then.
Still, one of the most highly anticipated regular-season matchups lived up to its billing Friday night as Lutheran West proved itself — for now — the gold standard in the Patriot Athletic Conference with a
“This definitely had that postseason atmosphere,” said Scott Voiers, the Longhorns’ sensational 6-foot-3 senior shooting guard, who scored a game-high 25 points.
“These are two of the top teams from our conference and it creates a lot of hype. It was a good test.”
It was also a chess match of sorts between two teams that play diametrically opposite styles of basketball.
Wellington (5-3 overall, 3-2 PAC) — with its short, athletic lineup having no one taller than 6-3 — races the floor in breakneck transitions.
Lutheran West (6-1 overall, 4-0 PAC) is more versatile, rotating lineups depending on the game situation. The Longhorns can maximize their height, where eight players clock in at 6-4 or taller, or they can throw out a lineup that specializes in ball-handling or outside shooting or full-court pressing.
On this night, Lutheran West excelled in what few have accomplished this season — slowing down fast-breaking Wellington. The Dukes were held to 32 percent shooting from the field, with most of their attempts coming from outside the paint.
Much of the Longhorns’ success was a result of their offensive efficiency. Though Lutheran West’s shooting wasn’t particularly accurate
(36 percent), half its points came from layups or putbacks.
“You’ve got to get the ball before you can score,” Wellington coach Tom Eibel said.
“We were always taking the ball out of bounds, and that gives them a chance to get back and set up. We didn’t force as many turnovers as we’d like and just couldn’t get the break going.”
For all their struggles, the Dukes clawed back from an eight-point deficit and had the basketball with a chance to tie with 18.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
But Lutheran West sophomore reserve Cal Thomay stripped Wellington’s Blake Sword in the game’s decisive possession, resulting in free throws by Voiers to close it out.
Lutheran West was forced to survive another furious fourth-quarter comeback bid from an opponent — something that has become a disturbing pattern for this team.
“This isn’t exactly the first time we’ve been in this situation,” Voiers said. “We’ve had to deal with this, it seems, every game we play. But you get kind of used to it after a while.”
Contact Pete Alpern at 329-7135 or at email@example.com.
Lutheran West 67, Wellington 62
WELLINGTON (62): Brandon Schmidt 3-4-11, Cory Kidd 2-1-6 Blake Sword 8-1-18, Erick Saunders 3-4-10, Kenny Natterer 1-0-2, Chris Huelsman 6-2-15. Totals: 23-12-62.
LUTHERAN WEST (67): Scott Voiers 7-11-25, Cal Thomay 1-0-3, Andrew Thomas 3-0-8, Stephon Seton 7-0-14, Ryan Feher 1-0-2, Adam Moses 2-0-4, Bryan Theriot 5-1-11. Totals: 26-12-67.
Wellington 14 20 11 17 — 62
Lutheran West 17 16 17 17 — 67
Three-point goals: Wellington 4 (Schmidt, Kidd, Sword, Huelsman); Lutheran West 3 (Thomas 2, Thomay). Field goals: Wellington 23 of 71 (32 percent); Lutheran West 26 of 72 (36 percent). Free throws: Wellington 12 of 17 (70 percent); Lutheran West 12 of 15 (80 percent). Turnovers: Wellington 17; Lutheran West 19. Total fouls: Wellington 14; Lutheran West 17. Fouled out: None. Junior varsity: Lutheran West, 54-36.