WELLINGTON — Despite days of school closings and below zero wind chills a capacity crowd filed into the Wellington gymnasium Friday night hoping to see another epic battle between the Dukes and Keystone.
After all, first place in the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division was on the line.
Instead, everyone was treated to a private viewing of the Maxwell Joppeck show.
The Wellington senior had a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Dukes to a dominating 61-37 win over the Wildcats.
Wellington improved to 9-1 and remains tied with Buckeye atop the Stars Division with a 5-1 record.
“We knew we had to come out and bring the pressure,” Joppeck said. “This is special. This is really a huge win for us. Probably a little more special than the Gossman Tournament but we have to keep looking forward.”
The Gossman is the Dukes’ own holiday tournament, which they won for the first time this year.
On Friday, Wellington led 35-30 at halftime and put the game away with their defensive intensity in the second half. Over the final 16 minutes, the Dukes held Keystone (6-3, 3-2) to seven points and 3-of-22 shooting from the field.
The Wildcats made their last trip to the free throw line with 3:28 to play in the second quarter when Ethan Sokolowski was fouled on a 3-pointer.
“It all comes from practice,” said sophomore Mason McCellan, who was the only other Wellington player in double figures with 11 points. “We just try so hard on defense in practice. We were ready for tonight, and then on offense, when they doubled down on Max, he was able to kick it out and we got open buckets. It’s crazy, this is such a big rivalry. We planned for the game and we were able to get in their heads.”
Keystone was expecting to have to body up against the 6-foot-4 Joppeck but when he stepped out and hit a pair of 3-pointers it opened up the floor. That forced the Wildcats to step out, opening the lane for Wellington, which shot 53 percent from the field (22-of-43)
“That’s awesome,” Joppeck said. “I like it when they expect me to shoot because then I can go right around them. It’s easy.”
Matt and Kevin Mealwitz accounted for nearly half of Keystone’s offense with Matt scoring 10 points and Kevin adding eight. The Wildcats didn’t score in the fourth quarter until Matt Mealwitz made a wide-open layup with 1:37 left in the game.
“Our guys played well and followed our game plan and scouting report from the start,” Wellington coach Dan Gundert said. “Keystone missed some shots there in the second half but I think a lot of that had to do with our defensive intensity.
“I can’t say enough about Max, our leader. He really does the little things that make us go,” Gundert said. “Everybody sees the points and rebounds but all the little things he does are just as huge.”
The Dukes held Keystone standouts Jeremy Gerhardinger and Brody Kuhl to six and five points, respectively.
Keystone coach Jeff Holzhauer was left searching for answers after watching his team drop its second consecutive league game.
“All the credit goes to coach Gundert and how he coaches his kids up,” Holzhauer said. “They just played harder than us tonight. They had one player we couldn’t stop at all. We spend two weeks game-planning to try to stop Max but nothing we worked on worked. We knew exactly what he was going to do, we just had a bunch of guys who didn’t wanna get in front of him. It’s that simple.”
“Our kids aren’t physical enough to win basketball games right now. The kids aren’t mentally prepared for that right now. We’ve got to take it to people. Wellington shoved the ball down our throat. Everything we did we were hesitant. We’re a very skilled team but right now we’re not very tough. If we don’t get tough we’re in for a long road ahead.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wellington 61, Keystone 37
KEYSTONE (37): Drake Rodick 1-0-2, Ethan Sokolowski 1-4-6, Brody Kuhl 2-0-5, Kevin Mealwitz 3-2-8, Matt Mealwitz 4-0-10, Jeremy Gerhardinger 3-0-6. Totals 14-6-37.
WELLINGTON (61): Ryan Whitaker 2-0-5, Mason McClellan 4-0-11, Nathaniel Shelton 4-0-8, Brandon Orozco 2-1-7, Colton Schmidt 3-2-9, Maxwell Joppeck 8-3-21. Totals 23-6-61.
Keystone 17 13 5 2 — 37
Wellington 16 19 13 13 — 61
Three point goals: Keystone (M. Mealwitz 2, Kuhl), Wellington (McClellan 3, Orozco 2, Joppeck 2, Schmidt, Whitaker). Field goals: Keystone 14-46 (30 percent), Wellington 23-43 (53 percent). Free throws: Keystone 6-7 (86 percent), Wellington 6-14 (43 percent). Rebounds: Keystone 28, Wellington 26. Turnovers: Keystone 14, Wellington 12. Total fouls: Keystone 15, Wellington 10.
Junior varsity: Keystone, 35-28