Tigers advance past Rockets, 71-58
STRUTHERS – With a 71-58 win over Lowellville in the Division IV district semifinals, the Wellsville Tigers continued their bid to improve upon last season’s run through the tournament.
“We’re in uncharted waters now, it would be nice to get out of here,” Wellsville coach David Thompson said. “It could be done, but we need some luck. Youngstown Christian proved that.”
The Tigers 10th win in a row also now has them in the midst of their longest winning streak since 2008. It’s also the second time that the Tigers have beaten the same opponent three times in one season.
“Someone was asking today about how many we have won in a row, and I didn’t even want to say it,” Thompson said. “I kept saying ‘ I think it’s eight.'”
Wellsville, however, quickly found itself down 7-0 and were forced to play catch-up early on.
“We started off pretty slow but we got into a groove in play better defense,” junior Nate Scott said. “It’s always hard beating a team three times. It doesn’t matter who it is but we came together as a team and settled down and played basketball.”
The Tigers and Rockets closed the quarter on a torrid pace with both teams exchanging baskets during the final minute, with Seth Bradford beating the buzzer to bring the score to a tie at 14.
Bradford finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. Camden Douglas also netted double figures with 14 points and nine rebounds. Jordan Sloan chipped in a double-double in the win with 10 points and 10 assists.
Wellsville opened up the second by ratcheting up the pressure on defense, but the Tigers failed to limit Lowellville’s David Wilaj. Wilaj who poured in nine of his 14 first half points in the second quarter.
Wilaj was held scoreless in the second half, and didn’t reach the scorebook in the final 16 minutes.
“Brendon (Carr) shut him down in the second half, he had four three’s in the first half and didn’t score at all in the second half,” Thompson said. “He’s good to have coming off of the bench because he can play defense.”
In the third quarter, Wellsville’s Scott caught fire and poured in 17 of his game-high 23 points during the third stanza. Scott accounted for nearly all of his team’s points in that frame.
“I was just running the court and my teammates were finding me. That’s how we play, fast-break,” Scott said. “We were taking advantage of turnovers and come tournament time every time a team makes a mistake you have to make them pay for it.”
The Rockets began the fourth quarter shooting in the bonus, but failed to connect on the front end of their first three one-and-one opportunities. Those three attempts were the only free throws that the Rockets shot in the final frame.
“We missed a ton of foul shots, that would have made a difference,” Lowellville coach Michael Mangine said. “When you miss those one and one’s, and then they come down and get a basket, that’s a big swing.”
Wellsville also benefitted from two crippling turnovers by the Rockets on inbounds plays in the fourth quarter. The Tigers cashed in on their opportunities.
“That was big, we got buckets off of that,” Thompson said. “That was kind of a shot in the arm because we played five guys most of the game. Those guys sucked it up and got it done.”
Wellsville will take on Youngstown Christian in the Division IV district finals at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Struthers High School.
“Up tempo, I think we can run with them we just can’t get tired,” Thompson said. “They play nine or ten players and we play five or six. But we’re in shape. Staying out of foul trouble will be key.”
Youngstown Christian defeated defending district champion Mogadore 52-51 on a three-pointer at the buzzer by Daylen Williams.
After an incident following Youngstown Christian’s win over Mogadore, Mogadore coach Russ Swartz was removed from the building after an argument ensued with the coach and Mogadore fans.
Wellsville will have presale tickets available at the Wellsville High School office for Friday night’s game against Youngstown Christian. The price for adults is $6 and $4 for students. Proceeds from presale tickets benefit the Wellsville athletic department. All tickets at the gate are $6.