Firelands' Nicholas Denney (3) passes over Wellington's Nathaniel Shelton Dec. 15. STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE
HENRIETTA TWP. — Wellington flew out of the gate in its Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division game with Firelands on Friday night, scoring the first nine points en route to a commanding 54-37 win over that kept the Dukes unbeaten at 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the conference.
The main cog in the Dukes’ offensive machine was 6-foot-4 senior Maxwell Joppeck, who scored eight of Wellington’s first 13 points and four during the opening 9-0 run. Joppeck was a force in the middle on both ends, finishing with a game-high 22 points, 13 rebounds and three steals.
“He is obviously a great player and he came out ready to play,” Falcons coach Alan Januzzi said. “That’s some of the best defense we have seen in terms of ball pressure and kids getting in the passing lanes. Our kids struggled with that tonight.”
Noah Diermyer got the night started with a 3-pointer for Wellington and followed with a baseline drive that netted two more on a short pull-up jumper. Joppeck added a pair of driving baskets for a 9-0 lead set up by a steal and rebound by Colton Schmidt.
“It was awesome to get out there and run to get up big on them,” Joppeck said. “We play on a big floor, so it’s easier to come here and player harder on this smaller floor. We knew we had to bring the tempo and get up on them and get them down early.”
The Falcons (1-4, 1-2) got their first basket with 4:50 left in the opening quarter on a putback from Nick Denney. Denney was the lone double-digit scorer for Firelands with 18 points, including a 3-pointer midway through the first eight minutes.
Denney’s 3-pointer inside the four-minute mark and a layup by freshman Casey Kelley got the Falcons within five points in the opening quarter, the closest they would come the rest of the game after trailing 29-22 at halftime.
Firelands trailed 31-25 early in the third quarter on an Austin Urban 3-pointer at 6:41, but the Dukes defense took control of the final 16 minutes, holding the Falcons to only 15 points on 7-of-25 (28 percent) shooting.
Joppeck helped put the game away for Wellington in the third quarter with eight more points, while teammate Colton Schmidt scored nine of his 11 points in the second half.
“You can talk about (Joppeck’s) points and talk about his rebounds, I was most proud of Max, about how much he has grown up as a player,” Dukes coach Dan Gundert said. “Coach (Nick) Senghas and coach (Tom) Guyer are really handling our defense and doing a tremendous job. The kids are buying into it and playing hard. If we can hold teams to that many points, good things are going to come our way.”
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Wellington 54, Firelands 37
WELLINGTON (54): Ryan Whitaker 0-0-0, Noah Diermyer 3-0-8, Ben Bliss 0-0-0, Mason McClellan 2-0-5, Nathaniel Shelton 4-0-8, Brandon Orozco 0-0-0, Colton Schmidt 3-5-11, Maxwell Joppeck 9-4-22. Totals 21-9-54.
FIRELANDS (37): Nick Denney 8-1-18, Aaron Myers 0-0-0, Austin Urban 2-0-6, Richard Maggard 4-1-9, Alex Angle 0-0-0, Casey Kelley 2-0-4. Totals 16-2-37.
Wellington 18 11 13 12 — 54
Firelands 10 12 7 8 — 37
Three-point goals: Wellington 3-8 (38 percent, Diermyer 2, McClellan); Firelands 3-12 (25 percent, Urban 2, Denney); Field goals: Wellington 21-48 (44 percent); Firelands 16-46 (35 percent). Free throws: Wellington 9-11 (82 percent); Firelands 2-6 (33 percent); Rebounds: Wellington 31, Firelands 26; Turnovers: Wellington 11, Firelands 16.
Junior varsity: Wellington, 46-37