YORK TWP. — The champ took one on the chin Wednesday. How Wellington responds is up to the Dukes.
In a battle for Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division supremacy, Buckeye beat Wellington 57-48 in the opening round of a two-round battle that will conclude Feb. 13 at home for the Dukes.
The victory didn’t just put the Bucks (9-3, 7-0) on top of the Stars Division, it snapped a 22-game league win streak by the Dukes (8-4, 6-1).
“This game was the precept for the rest of the season,” said Buckeye center Grace Allen, who scored 11 points and had a game-high 17 rebounds. “This is the road to the PAC. From here, we just have to keep winning and the PAC can be ours. We face them again, but it’s good to play a good game the first time we meet.”
The second time might be a little different if Wellington plays the way it did in the second half.
The Dukes faced an uphill battle right out of the gate with center Alexis Lehmkuhl (15.6 points per game) out of action with a knee injury. The injury will keep the senior out of action indefinitely, according to her father Bruce Lehmkuhl.
Add to that early foul trouble from Dukes point guard Jalen Gibbs and things didn’t look promising at the opening tip.
They only got worse as Wellington missed its first nine shots before Amanda Spiekerman scored from the elbow with 28 seconds left in the first quarter.
Prior to that the Dukes only had one point from Gibbs and they limped into the second quarter down 17-3.
“We had open shots at times, but didn’t step up and shoot them,” Wellington coach Nathan Morris said. “We were awful from the free throw line in the first half and didn’t step up and put those in either. We were just off a little bit. We have to figure out a way to not do that.”
The second quarter wasn’t much better as Gabby Glancy (18 points, five assists) and Madison Ross caused Wellington fits in a 5-for-24 first-half performance (.208).
The Dukes went into halftime down 32-15 and everything looked like it was going to be a Buckeye night.
That’s when Wellington, and especially Gibbs, stepped up.
Gibbs scored 20 of her game-high 22 points in the second half and accounted for 14 of the 16 points the Dukes had in the third quarter.
With the junior point guard scoring at will, it brought the Wellington faithful alive and made what looked like a blowout into a nailbiter down the stretch.
“We figured out what we needed to do to score and that was getting me into the post,” the 6-foot Gibbs said. “I wanted the offense to go through me a lot, just in and out, in and out.”
With Gibbs, who also had 10 rebounds, putting the Dukes on her back in the second half, Wellington put quite the scare into Buckeye.
A basket by Erin Frenk with 1:58 remaining made it 51-46 and a pair of free throws by Gibbs, who had 12 from the foul line, made it 53-48 with 34.2 left.
But Glancy hit a pair of free throws on the next possession and Elizabeth Whetstone sealed things for the final margin with 11 seconds remaining.
Despite the loss, Norris saw quite a bit of fight in his team that he can take down into the next contest with Buckeye in a few weeks.
“We came in at halftime and obviously I was a little upset,” he said. “I challenged them and they stepped up and responded for sure. I was so proud of them. We just have to find a way to not dig ourselves a big hole.”
Buckeye 57, Wellington 48
WELLINGTON 3 12 16 17 — 48
BUCKEYE 17 15 9 16 — 57
Wellington — Jill Laposky 0-0-0, Lexi Wright 1-3-6, Erin Frenk 2-0-4, Brooklinn Damiano 0-0-0, Jalen Gibbs 5-12-22, Grace Dudziak 0-0-0, Julia Molek 3-0-8, Jenna Calfo 1-0-2, Amanda Spiekerman 3-0-6. TOTALS: 15-15-48.
Buckeye — Elizabeth Whetstone 3-1-7, Madison Ross 4-3-11, Grace Allen 5-1-11, Sydney Bell 2-0-4, Gabby Glancy 7-2-18, Autumn Meyer 3-0-6, Riley Vickerts 0-0-0, Courtney Keeler 0-0-0. TOTALS: 24-7-57.
3-point goals — Glancy 2. Rebounds — Wellington 35 (Gibbs 10), Buckeye 39 (Allen 17). Assists — Wellington 10 (Spiekerman 4), Buckeye 18 (Glancy 5). Total fouls — Wellington 15, Buckeye 14. Records — Wellington (8-4, 6-1), Buckeye (9-3, 7-0). Junior varsity —Buckeye 40, Wellington 23.