One was a back-and-forth affair that promised to turn into a nail-biter, the other was a wide-open, take-no-prisoners blowout.
The strange thing was both were played in a total of four quarters as the Wellington Dukes blasted the Clippers over the last nine minutes for an 81-54 win.
The Dukes used a tidal wave a of a run — 31 unanswered points from the last minute of the third quarter to 1:12 left in the game — to turn a 53-45 deficit into a convincing road victory.
As a result they improved to 4-1, 3-0 in the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division.
“That’s the third straight game we’ve answered the bell after halftime,” Wellington coach Dan Gundert said. “We took care of the basketball, held them to one shot and got some easy looks down the stretch.”
Gundert’s Dukes made seven of 10 field-goal attempts in the final period, including three straight transition layups following steals in 34 seconds around the 4:00 mark. Jason Perry finished off two of the fast breaks, while guard Nathan Starkey made the third layup on his way to a career-high 34 points.
The minirun within the run pushed the score to 66-53 and put the game away — except for the shouting. Clippers coach John Szalay, frustrated by the turn of the game and his team’s play, protested a call and was hit with a technical. Starkey scored his last four points at the free throw line for a 72-53 lead with 2:22 to play.
“We just fell apart,” Szalay said. “I’ve been coaching a lot of years and I’ve never seen a total breakdown like that. I don’t know what to stay. I needed to do better. This one is on me. When we showed our inexperience, we didn’t know how to respond to it.”
Wellington jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter but saw it slip away despite its nine-of-11 shooting. The lead went back and forth throughout the second quarter before the Clippers took a 40-37 lead into the locker room.
Clearview (1-2, 1-2) started to pull away in the third when Anthony Fears made successive layups for a 53-45 lead with 2:12 to go in the quarter. The baskets gave him 20 points on the night, but he never scored another and his team responded with one lone free throw in the face of the barrage that came from that point on.
Starkey said the turnabout started in the locker room at halftime.
“We knew coming out that if we wanted our offense to get going it had to start on defense,” he said.
The Dukes forced six Clippers turnovers in the fourth quarter to just one of their own, and the three straight fast-break layups were the result.
“We really put a focus on when we get teams down to put the foot on the gas pedal,” Starkey said. “We don’t like to let up because no lead is safe. We wanted to keep the same intensity.”
“Our bench gave us a great spark tonight,” Gundert said. “Nathan Gray, Dylan Weidrick, Freddy Senghas and those guys went in and we started playing with a little more energy. And Nathan Starkey has a lot of moxie on the basketball floor. He wants the ball in his hands and we want it in his hands. He’s playing very well for us.”
Wellington 81, Clearview 54
WELLINGTON (81): Nathan Starkey 9-13-34, Ethan Herman 1-0-2, Zac Gilbert 4-0-8, Brady Shaw 3-2-8, Jason Perry 3-4-10, Dylan Kidd 1-4-6, Nathan Carroll 1-0-2, Nathan Gray 1-2-4, Freddy Senghas 0-3-3, David Clark 0-0-0, Dylan Weidrick 2-0-4, Tim Young 0-0-0. Totals 25-28-81.
CLEARVIEW (54): Gerrell Williams 6-4-19, Eric Burkey 1-1-3, Clifton Brown 1-0-2, Anthony Fears 8-3-20, Joshua Molina 1-0-2, Marcus Rodriguez 0-0-0, Chad Anderson 0-0-0, Seth Trinidad 3-0-7, Marius Reese 0-0-0, Lorenzo Celestino 0-0-0, Brian Wood 0-0-0, Grady Hitchens 0-0-0, Marcus Correa 0-1-1, Robert Branscum 0-0-0. Totals 20-9-54.
Wellington 20 17 13 31 — 81
Clearview 19 21 13 1 — 54
Three-point goals: Wellington 3-7 (Starkey 3); Clearview 5-7 (Williams 3, Fears, Trinidad). Field goals: Wellington 25-49 (51 percent), Clearview 20-55 (36 percent). Free throws: Wellington
28-38 (74 percent), Clearview 9-22 (41 percent). Rebounds: Wellington 32, Clearview 34. Turnovers: Wellington 13, Clearview 12. Total fouls: Wellington 18, Clearview 27.