WELLINGTON — The Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division race became extra spicy when Colton Schmidt gambled big and won big.
The timing was devastating for the then-surging Buckeye boys basketball team.
The four-year starter came up with a steal-and-score with approximately 90 seconds remaining Tuesday and followed with an assist to Maxwell Joppeck, giving Wellington a strange and exciting 53-49 victory that for all intents and purposes could have been a blowout.
Wellington (13-2, 9-2) tied the Bucks (12-4, 9-2) atop the division but only after blowing a 16-point lead in the second half and doing everything right in the final 1:22.
“In my head, we needed a big play to get us going again,” Schmidt said. “The game was tied there, and I saw an opportunity. I went for it and I was lucky enough to get it.”
The final score didn’t make sense statistically. The Dukes scored 19 of the first 24 points, shot 21-for-39 (.538), picked apart the Stars Division’s best defense in transition, won the rebounding battle 33-16 and were ahead on the scoreboard 34-18 early in the third quarter.
Joppeck had 23 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks of high-rising counterpart Justin Canedy. The point guard-turned-center scored 10 points as Wellington led 17-5 after a quarter and added nine points in the decisive fourth.
Schmidt added 11 points, seven boards and five assists, while Noah Diermyer (10 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists) played sticky defense on Buckeye leading scorer Anthony Watkins (7 points).
The score went from boring to intense methodically, as the Dukes stopped pushing in transition and Buckeye’s half-court defense, which allowed 33.4 points during a seven-game winning streak, settled in to spearhead a 22-5 run that put the Bucks ahead 40-39 with 5:34 to play on a Watkins 3-pointer.
“We got a couple stops and I thought we were a little more confident on offense,” Buckeye coach Tom Harrington said. “Attacking the rim, we did pretty well in the second half.
“I thought we stopped giving up easy buckets in the second half. It’s easier to be a good defensive team when you score so you can run back and set up your defense. We couldn’t score in the first half, and not only were we not scoring, we weren’t running back on defense. I don’t know why.”
Buckeye shot 2-for-12 and 4-for-12 in the first two quarters but got back into contention behind forward Carter Hudak (11 points, 6 rebounds) and guard Brock Brumfield (18 points), who was 1-for-7 in the first half but the best player on the floor as the Bucks made their run. Buckeye eventually led 46-44 when Brumfield made two free throws at the two-minute mark.
Joppeck countered with two free throws — to Harrington’s disappointment, the Bucks had a double team but fouled anyway — and Buckeye patiently went into a set. Schmidt anticipated a simple ball reversal, however, and poked the ball away for the game-winning layup.
A missed baseline jumper then set up Schmidt firing to a streaking Joppeck, giving the Dukes a 50-46 lead. Buckeye got to 51-49 on a Brumfield three with 8.6 seconds to go, but a trapping defender slipped at midcourt and Diermyer got free for a wide-open layup shortly before time expired.
“Give our kids credit. It would have been easy to fold, but we didn’t,” Harrington said. “We went and got that lead and stopped everything with a foul (leading 46-44). That just really hurt us.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.
Wellington 53, Buckeye 49
BUCKEYE (49): Spencer Imes 2-0-6, Carter Hudak 5-1-12, Justin Canedy 1-1-3, Anthony Watkins 3-0-7, Brock Brumfield 6-4-18, Adam Fauver 0-0-0, Michael Knoll 0-0-0, Aaron Drew 1-0-3. Totals 18-6-49.
WELLINGTON (53): Noah Diermyer 5-0-10, Colton Schmidt 4-2-11, Maxwell Joppeck 8-7-23, Mason McLellan 3-1-7, Ryan Whitaker 0-0-0, Brandon Orozco 1-0-2, Ben Bliss 0-0-0. Totals 21-10-53.
Buckeye 5 11 17 16 — 49
Wellington 17 10 13 13 — 53
Three-point goals: Buckeye 7-12 (Imes 2, Brumfield 2, Watkins, Hudak, Drew), Wellington 1-9 (Schmidt). Field goals: Buckeye 18-46 (39.1 percent), Wellington 21-39 (53.8 percent). Free throws: Buckeye 6-8 (75 percent), Wellington 10-20 (50 percent). Rebounds: Buckeye 16 (Hudak 6), Wellington 33 (Joppeck 10). Assists: Buckeye 5 (Brumfield 3), Wellington 10 (Schmidt 5). Fouls: Buckeye 17, Wellington 15.
Junior varsity: Buckeye, 46-35.