The Dukes were flustered by Oberlin’s press and physical play. And yet, somehow, they led by one at halftime.
It was a different story in the second half as Wellington sank 21 of 30 free throws, accounting for 21 of its 33 second-half points, in a 55-46 crossover victory.
Wellington, the defending Stars Division co-champion, improved to 1-1, while Oberlin, the defending Stripes Division champion, fell to 0-2.
The Dukes won despite committing 28 turnovers and sinking just 15 of 31 shots from the floor.
“I’d like to think that we won it,” said Wellington coach Dan Gundert, when asked if his team stole a win or if Oberlin gave it away. “That’s what we try to do — we try to go out there and win it. We had some guys make some big plays tonight. I thought we struggled from the free throw line the other night (against Midview), and some guys stepped up and hit some big ones late in the fourth quarter.
“That’s good for our confidence, especially for a young basketball team. We have some guys putting a varsity uniform on for just the second time in their lives tonight, and they’re out there in the fourth quarter having to make some free throws. It was big for them and it was fun for us to watch kids grow like that.”
Among those sinking huge free throws were senior Dave Clark (6-of-8 in the second half), junior Dylan Kidd (9-of-10 in the second half), senior Dylan Weidrick (3-of-6 in the second half) and senior reserve Tim Young (2-of-3 in the second half). Not surprisingly, all four reached double figures, with Clark leading the way with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
With Wellington nursing a five-point lead heading into the final eight minutes, the Dukes went to the line 21 times, sinking 14. The Dukes only shot three field goals during the quarter and sank all of them.
“We practice free throws all the time,” said Kidd, who finished with 13 points. “We’re not going to do anything different with our free throws when it comes down to it, and today was one of those days where we needed to do well from the line if we wanted to win.”
Oberlin head coach Kurt Russell believed the game got away.
“We spend all week practicing our full-court press and it seems as though some kids don’t buy into what we are trying to do,” he said. “Wellington just dribbled right past us. There was no help-side defense. We didn’t jump to the ball. (These are) things we practice all week.
“It really got to us tonight. Give Wellington the credit, but at the same time, I blame our kids. It was just a poor performance.”
Two Oberlin players fouled out during the fourth quarter, and two other Phoenix players were whistled for a technical and flagrant foul, respectively. The technical came late in the third quarter after Oberlin had won a jump ball trailing 33-30, and Kidd sank both free throws with 4.2 seconds left to make it a five-point advantage that may have been the turning point in the game.
The press flustered Wellington, especially in the first quarter and through most of the first half. Oberlin jumped out to an 11-8 lead after the first quarter and expanded it to 17-10 with 6:54 left in the first half.
But the Dukes put their frustrations behind them and put forth a 12-4 run to end the first half. A three-point play by Clark with 24.1 seconds left gave Wellington its first lead, 22-21, which it took into halftime.
“We’re going to win a lot of ugly games this year,” Gundert said. “That’s the style we’re going to play — low scoring and a lot of sets offensively. Anytime you’re up, you’re happy. We came in at the half ahead, and we were OK with it.”
A pair of free throws by Jason Moore, who led all scorers with 21 points, with 2:44 left in the third quarter, gave Oberlin back the lead, 30-29. But Kidd, who sank all six of his third-quarter free throws, hit a pair with 1:54 left to regain the lead for the Dukes, and that started a 6-0 run to end the quarter and give Wellington a 35-30 advantage.
“It’s just playing Oberlin,” said Kidd on the physical nature of the game. “We’re conference rivals and we both want to start the conference season on a winning note. Today, we were lucky to come out on top.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Wellington 55, Oberlin 46
OBERLIN (46): Jason Moore 9-3-21, DaShaun Horton 5-0-13, Charles Lewis 2-1-6, Noland Isom 1-0-3, Marcus Bailey 1-0-2, Demonte Taborn 1-0-2, Marvin Jackson 0-0-0, Kalif Townsel 0-0-0, Devante Hougland 0-0-0, Monte Young 0-0-0, Khalil Whitworth 0-0-0. Totals 19-4-46.
WELLINGTON (55): Dave Clark 5-8-18, Dylan Kidd 2-9-13, Dylan Weidrick 3-5-11, Jacob Grimmett 1-0-2, Joey Holliday 0-1-1, Tim Young 4-2-10, Jake Miller 0-0-0. Totals 15-25-55.
Oberlin 11 10 9 16 — 46
Wellington 8 14 13 20 — 55
Three-point goals: Oberlin 4-18 (Horton 2, Isom, Lewis), Wellington 0-3. Field goals: Oberlin 19-62 (31 percent), Wellington 15-31 (49 percent). Free throws: Oberlin 4-9 (44 percent), Wellington 25-38 (66 percent). Rebounds: Oberlin 28 (Horton 5, Moore 5), Wellington 35 (Weidrick 11, Clark 10). Turnovers: Oberlin 18, Wellington 28. Technical foul: Taborn. Flagrant foul: Moore. Fouled out: Bailey, Lewis.
Junior varsity: Oberlin, 42-30.