Northwestern (12-11) shot a blistering 57 percent in the first half and turned the ball over just four times to build a lead it held all night, knocking off Wellington 79-75 in a Division III sectional opener.
The Huskies connected on six of their first eight shots, built a 14-4 lead at the 2:34 mark of the first quarter and spent the rest of the night protecting its lead. Northwestern, which scored the first six points of the game, never trailed.
The Dukes (8-15) shot just 40 percent in the first half (10-25) and missed five of 11 free throws before halftime.
A furious fourth-quarter rally, including a 14-2 run to close the third quarter and start the fourth, almost brought the Dukes back, but the Huskies were able to knock down key free throws down the stretch to hang on and advance to the next round against the winner of tonight’s Elyria Catholic-Hillsdale game.
“We wasted a lot of energy cutting into that big lead in the fourth,” Wellington coach Dan Gundert said. “I think that hurt us down the stretch. And every time we made a run it seemed like we got in foul trouble. We had to take a couple of guys from our starting five out for awhile … that hurt us.”
Dave Clark scored 25 points while Dylan Kidd added 20 for the Dukes, who had possession with a chance to tie the game twice in the final minute. The first time, down 73-71 with 56.2 seconds to play, Kidd had a layup halfway down before it spun out.
The second time, down 78-75 with seven seconds left, Kidd’s 3-pointer bounced off the rim and fell away. Kidd fell to the floor after his shot, but the officials didn’t give him the call.
Northwestern led 56-41 after Malachi Nolletti hit a short jumper with 44.1 seconds left in the third quarter. Kidd tried to cut into the lead by hoisting a 3-pointer with 37.1 seconds left in the period. He missed, but Tyler Smith bumped into him after the shot and was called for the foul.
That sparked the Dukes’ 14-2 run.
“The biggest play of the game was the foul on the 3-pointer that turned the momentum around,” Huskies coach Dan Alberts said. “We were up 56-41 at the time and Tyler (Smith) fouled Kidd. He made all three free throws and cut it to 12. That’s the reason they took the momentum and were able to get back into it.”
At times it looked like Clark and Kidd were going to pull it off. The pair combined to score 17 points in the fourth quarter.
“I took a few (outside) shots early that didn’t fall, so I knew I would have to take it to the basket,” Clark said. “I was getting there pretty easily and getting some fouls called on them as well. It was just too little, too late. Sometimes the shots just don’t want to go in for you.”
Dylan Weidrich added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Dukes, despite sitting the entire second quarter with foul trouble.
“It was some adversity we had to overcome,” Clark said of Weidrich having to sit. “He’s a big presence in the middle for us and we had to put in some guys who weren’t used to getting minutes. It’s was a big difference when he wasn’t in there and we had to change up our whole game plan.”
Drew Kline scored 20 points and grabbed 17 rebounds for Northwestern, while Brandon Covert added 14 points and nine rebounds.
“We converted … we had some great looks at the basket,” Alberts said. “Brandon Covert had a couple of big ones down the stretch that kept the lead at seven for a little while until they made their late run and were able to cut it to three.
“You have to give (Wellington) a lot of credit because the game totally changed from when it was 56-41. I give them a lot of credit for not dying, and I give our guys a lot of credit for not panicking when we lost that big lead like that. We could have folded.”
“We were right there,” Gundert said. “A couple of breaks, a couple of loose balls that we didn’t get or a couple of offensive rebounds that we didn’t get. … It makes it tough.”
Northwestern 79, Wellington 75
WELLINGTON (75): Dylan Kidd 6-7-20, Jacob Grimmett 1-0-3, Dylan Weidrick 5-4-14, Dave Clark 10-5-25, Joey Holliday 1-0-2, Tim Young 5-1-11, Tony Walker 0-0-0, Jake Miller 0-0-0, Daryn Broadwater 0-0-0. Totals 28-17-75.
NORTHWESTERN (79): Brandon Covert 7-0-14, Drew Kline 6-8-20, Matt Kohler 0-0-0, Malachi Nolletti 7-5-20, Tyler Smith 3-6-15, Gavin Gortner 1-0-2, Walker Claus 2-0-4, Tristan Weaverling 1-1-4, Bailey Mowrer 0-0-0. Totals 27-21-79.
Wellington 11 18 17 29 — 75
Northwestern 20 16 20 23 — 79
Three-point goals: Wellington 2-7 (Kidd, Grimmett), Northwestern 5-11 (Smith 3, Nolletti, Weaverling). Field goals: Wellington 28-55 (51 percent), Northwestern 27-51 (53 percent); Free throws: Northwestern 21-31 (68 percent), Wellington 17-25 (68 percent); Rebounds: Wellington 31 (Weidrick 10), Northwestern 32 (Kline 17); Turnovers: Wellington 12, Northwestern 11; Total fouls: Wellington 20, Northwestern 19. Fouled out: Holliday.
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or email@example.com.