WELLINGTON — The Wellington Dukes have already had a season to remember.
Saturday they added to their growing scrapbook.
Wellington captured its first sectional title in more than a decade with a 51-40 victory over fifth-seeded Independence.
The fourth-seed Dukes improved to 19-2 and will play top-seeded Elyria Catholic in the district semifinals Wednesday at 6 p.m. at North Ridgeville High School.
“It’s the first time the Lady Dukes have been in the district semifinals in a very long time so it is exciting,” said Wellington coach Nathan Morris, whose team also won its first league title in 29 years. “We’re going to continue to give it our all and see what happens.”
The Dukes raced out to a 20-7 lead after the first quarter thanks to a stout defensive effort and a big dose of Alexis Lehmkuhl and Jalen Gibbs.
The duo combined for 14 points in the period, consistently getting to the basket and finishing strong at the rim. Gibbs also had four rebounds in the quarter. Gibbs had 17 points for the game while Lehmkuhl and Lexi Wright had 13 and 11, respectively.
“I thought we played with a lot of energy and gave a good effort to start the game,” Gibbs said. “There’s a little more nerves playing in the tournament so we just had to settle in and play our game.”
Independence (15-8) tried to fight back with its defense, holding Wellington to six points in the second quarter.
“I think we let their size get to us early and it forced us to play from behind the rest of the game,” Independence coach Mike Marcinko said. “We can’t go eight minutes without correcting our mistakes against a team like that.”
The Dukes’ defense was just as strong, however, and after a slow start to the third quarter their offense picked back up.
Wright knocked down back-to-back threes and Gibbs followed with a layup as Wellington took its biggest lead at 37-20 midway through the third.
“Even though we’re still a fairly young team we have some experience and do a good job of bouncing back after our opponents make a little run,” Morris said.
The Blue Devils continued to scrap in the fourth quarter, trimming Wellington’s lead to seven with under two minutes to play thanks to a late 6-0 run.
It was too little too late at that point though and Lehmkuhl and Gibbs combined to make five of six free throws to preserve the win.
“They’re a very good team so this was a good test for us as we move forward in the tournament,” Gibbs said.
Contact Paul Williams at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Wellington 51, Independence 40
INDEPENDENCE (40): Riley Wilson 4-0-11, Erica Esper 0-0-0, Kaitlin Richards 4-1-9, Haylee Dmitruk 4-0-8, Brooklyn Pillar
0-0-0, Madison Stepanik 1-1-3, Hanah Walker 2-1-7, Riccela DeGeronimo 1-0-2. Totals 16-3-40.
WELLINGTON (51): Lexi Wright 3-2-11, Alexis Lehmkuhl 5-3-13, Jalen Gibbs 7-3-17, Hope Diermyer 2-0-4, Erin Frenk 3-0-6, Micah Smiley 0-0-0, Jill Laposky 0-0-0, Brooklinn Damiano
0-0-0. Totals 20-8-51.
Independence 7 10 6 17 — 40
Wellington 20 6 11 14 — 51
Three-point goals: Independence 5-16 (Wilson 3, Walker 2), Wellington 3-10 (Wright 3). Field goals: Independence 16-48 (33 percent), Wellington 20-46 (43 percent). Free throws: Independence 3-12 (25 percent), Wellington 8-12 (67 percent). Fouls: Independence 13, Wellington 15. Turnovers: Independence 14, Wellington 11.