Wellington’s best season in many years earned the Dukes the No. 1 seed Sunday in the Division III Wooster district tournament, which begins Tuesday, Feb. 27.
It also has probably earned the Dukes a big ol’ target on their collective back. With Oberlin now in Division IV and Columbia having moved to the Garfield Heights district, Wellington is the lone remaining Lorain County team in the far-flung tournament which features a lot of teams from the Wayne County Athletic League.
The Dukes are 17-2 after Saturday’s one-point win over Norwayne, the district’s 11th-seeded team, and at 12-2 in the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division have all but locked up that title.
Dukes coach Dan Gundert said the school was checking whether the 1982 team earned a No. 1 seed. He said that would have been the only other potential top seed in school history. No one on the current team has ever played in the district tournament at Wooster, the Dukes having been eliminated in the sectional the past three season.
“(The WCAL) is a very physical league, and they all help each other get ready for that type of play,” said Gundert, who noted that Saturday’s Norwayne game matched that theme.
“That could present problems, but we’ll swallow our whistles in practice and perfect our free throws, as those two things will help us get ready.”
Two other Lorain County teams have top seeds: Lorain in the Division I Elyria Catholic district and Vermilion in the Division II Mansfield district.
Vermilion’s road the regional is loaded as usual. Second-seeded Mansfield Senior is 12-6 with wins over a few top foes, while Lexington (No. 3 seed) is 16-5 and fourth-seeded Sandusky, which acquitted itself well in the Lorain County Holiday Classic, is 13-6. Vermilion, on the other hand, is 16-3 — and its three losses all have come in the final seconds against Lorain, Elyria and Elyria Catholic.
Vermilion coach Kurt Habermehl said only three teams in the draw have losing records, while the Sailors are at a disadvantage due to the Northwest District using all neutral sites. Vermilion opens at Willard, which is about 55 minutes from home. (Bucyrus, their other possible choice, is even farther away.)
“It affects the crowd you get, but we’ll focus on doing what we do and not worrying about outside influences,” Habermehl said. “We’ve had a very good year and it’s a great honor to get the No. 1 seed.”
In the Division bracket at Elyria Catholic, Lorain’s toughest opponents are presumably Olmsted Falls and Elyria. The Bulldogs are 17-2 and 14-1 in the Southwestern Conference, with only a loss to Lakewood (also 14-1) in league play.
The Bulldogs’ lack of size won’t hurt them against the Titans, as Lorain is relatively small this season. The Pioneers are seeded third, while Midview rounds out the top four.
In Division II at North Ridgeville, there weren’t too many surprises. Holy Name and Bay are the top two seeds, followed by PAC contenders Clearview, Keystone and Buckeye. The Clippers likely have the best shot to disrupt a presumed Green Wave-Rockets district final on March 10, though they’ll have to get through Bay in a March 8 district semifinal.
The Rockets beat the Clippers 77-58 on Jan. 16, one of Clearview’s three losses.
“Wow, (Holy Name and Bay) are two explosive teams,” Clearview coach John Szalay said. “We’ll have to play well just to get a shot at the deserving top two seeds. I hope we can advance and then prepare the best we can for one of them.”
With Villa-Angela-St. Joseph gone from the Garfield Heights district in Division III, EC, seeded third, has Lutheran East and Beachwood ahead of it as it hopes to advance.
The Falcons, who won last year’s Division III state title, are just 7-11 this season, but play an extremely difficult schedule and have nearly pulled off victories against the likes of Cleveland Heights, Lorain, St Edward and others. The Bison, meanwhile, are just 10-9 but also play a difficult schedule, including a near win over St. Ignatius on Saturday.
The Panthers, though, prepare the same way. Take, for instance, their next four games — Lorain, Bay, Garfield Heights and Clearview, teams that are a combined 52-18.
“With VASJ being gone, we think it’s wide open, though Lutheran East and Beachwood, rightfully so, are the top two seeds,” EC coach Phil Kuchta said. “We have a tough schedule, too, and we hope it plays a role for us come tourney time. We hope by the time we begin, there hasn’t been anything we haven’t seen — athleticism, size, speed, shooters, you name it.”
In Division IV, Oberlin is seeded sixth, Open Door eighth and Lake Ridge 11th in the Norton district. The Lions and Phoenix will meet in the tournament opener.
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Division I (Elyria Catholic)
(Seed in parentheses, first two rounds at site of highest-seeded team)
Wednesday, Feb. 28 (all games 7 p.m.): Westlake (No. 9) at North Ridgeville (No. 8); North Olmsted (No. 13) at Midview (No. 4); Amherst (No. 12) at Avon Lake (No. 5); Berea-Midpark (No. 10) at John Marshall (No. 7); Strongsville (No. 11) at Avon (No. 6).
Saturday, March 3 (all games 7 p.m.): North Ridgeville-Westlake winner at Lorain (No. 1); Midview-North Olmsted winner vs. Avon Lake-Amherst winner (at highest-remaining seed); Berea-Midpark-John Marshall winner at Olmsted Falls (No. 2); Strongsville-Avon winner at Elyria (No. 3).
Wednesday, March 7 (7 p.m.): District semifinal at Elyria Catholic.
Thursday, March 8 (7 p.m.): District semifinal at Elyria Catholic.
Saturday, March 10 (7 p.m.): District final at Elyria Catholic.
Division II (North Ridgeville)
Tuesday, Feb. 27 (all games 7 p.m.): Lutheran West (No. 9) at Rocky River (No. 8); Firelands (No. 12) at Buckeye (No. 5); Cloverleaf (No. 10) at Padua (No. 7); Brookside (No. 11) at Fairview (No. 6).
Friday, March 2 (all games 7 p.m.): Lutheran West-Rocky River winner at Holy Name (No. 1); Buckeye-Firelands winner at Keystone (No. 4); Padua-Cloverleaf winner at Bay (No. 2); Fairview-Brookside winner at Clearview (No. 3).
Wednesday, March 7 (7 p.m.): District semifinal at North Ridgeville.
Thursday, March 8 (7 p.m.): District semifinal at North Ridgeville.
Saturday, March 10 (4 p.m.): District final at North Ridgeville.
Division II (Mansfield)
Tuesday, Feb. 27: Port Clinton (No. 14) vs. Mansfield Senior (No. 2) at Bucyrus; Bellevue (No. 11) vs. Vermilion (No. 1) at Willard).
Wednesday, Feb. 28: Norwalk (No. 6) vs. Perkins (No. 9) at Bucyrus; Columbian (No. 13) vs. Sandusky (No. 4) at Bucyrus; Ontario (No. 10) vs. Clyde (No. 7) at Willard; Lexington (No. 3) vs. Galion (No. 12) at Willard.
Friday, March 2: Mansfield Senior-Port Clinton winner vs. Clear Fork (No. 5) at Bucyrus (6 p.m.); Norwalk-Perkins winner vs. Sandusky-Columbian winner at Bucyrus (8 p.m.); Vermilion-Bellevue winner vs. Shelby (No. 8) at Willard (6 p.m.); Ontario-Clyde winner vs. Lexington-Galion winner at Willard (8 p.m).
Tuesday, March 6: District semifinals at Mansfield Madison Middle School, 6:15 and 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 10: District final at Mansfield Madison Middle School, 2 p.m.
Division III (Garfield Heights)
Tuesday, Feb. 27 (all games 7 p.m.): Fairport Harding (No. 9) at Trinity (No. 8); Brooklyn (No. 10) at St. Martin de Porres (No. 7).
Friday, March 2 (all games at 7 p.m.): Fairport Harding-Trinity winner at Lutheran East (No. 1); Columbia (No. 5) at Kirtland (No. 4); Brooklyn-St. Martin de Porres at Beachwood (No. 2); Wickliffe (No. 6) at Elyria Catholic (No. 3).
Monday, March 5 (7 p.m.): District semifinal at Garfield Heights.
Tuesday, March 6 (7 p.m.): District semifinal at Garfield Heights.
Friday, March 9 (7 p.m.): District final at Garfield Heights.
Division III (Wooster)
Tuesday, Feb. 27 (all games 7 p.m.): Loudonville (No. 9) at Chippewa (No. 8); Black River (No. 12) at Smithville (No. 5); Orrville (No. 10) at Tuslaw (No. 7); Norwayne (No. 11) at Northwestern (No. 6).
Friday, March 2 (all games 7 p.m.): Loudonville-Chippewa winner at Wellington (No. 1); Black River-Smithville winner at Manchester (No. 4); Orrville-Tuslaw winner at Triway (No. 2); Norwayne-Northwestern winner at Waynedale (No. 3).
Monday, March 5 (7 p.m.): District semifinal at Wooster.
Tuesday, March 6 (7 p.m.): District semifinal at Wooster.
Friday, March 9 (TBD): District final at Wooster.
Division IV (Norton)
Tuesday, Feb. 27 (all games 7 p.m.): Heritage Christian (No. 9) at Open Door (No. 8); Mapleton (No. 13) at Dalton (No. 4); Hillsdale (No. 12) at Lake Center Christian (No. 5); Central Christian (No. 10) at Independence (No. 7); Lake Ridge (No. 11) at Oberlin (No. 6).
Friday, March 2 (all games 7 p.m.): Heritage Christian-Open Door at Rittman (No. 1); Mapleton-Dalton winner vs. Hillsdale-Lake Center Christian winner (at highest remaining seed); Central Christian-Independence winner at Cuyahoga Heights (No. 2); Lake Ridge-Oberlin winner at Whitney Young (No. 3).
Monday, March 5 (7 p.m.): District semifinal at Norton.
Tuesday, March 6 (7 p.m.): District semifinal at Norton.
Friday, March 9 (7 p.m.): District final at Norton.