Firelands's Austin Urban takes a long shot over Wellington's Ben Bliss Friday December 14th.. STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE
WELLINGTON — Any time the Firelands Falcons and Wellington Dukes meet on the court, you can expect a gritty, feisty and very intense game.
Friday night was no different as the teams met and played a hard-fought game in front of a raucous crowd.
The Dukes came out on top 65-49 but the final score doesn’t do justice to the type of game it actually was.
The Dukes continue to roll, improving to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the Patriot Athletic Conference while the Falcons lost for the fifth straight time to open the season.
“Credit to our kids, we got after them at halftime and they really responded well,” Wellington coach Dan Gundert said. “We have great senior leadership and they did a good job for us tonight.”
The final minutes of the first half and the opening minutes of the third quarter were the key moments of the game.
Firelands looked en route to taking their first lead toward the end of the second quarter, scoring seven straight points to trim its deficit to 30-27.
Wellington’s Ryan Whitaker halted that run with one of the biggest shots of the game, draining a 3-pointer from the wing.
The three stripped Firelands of its momentum and gave the Dukes a 33-27 lead going into the half.
“We were losing some momentum there so it helped to get the lead back up going into halftime,” Whitaker said. “If someone’s going to throw a punch at us, we are going to try and throw one back.”
Wellington withstood another Firelands punch to open the third quarter.
Firelands sophomore Mitchell Hodges trimmed the deficit to 35-31 with a huge, two-handed dunk.
The finish whipped the Falcons bench and crowd into a frenzy while forcing a Wellington timeout.
“Coach told me to throw it down if I had a chance to,” Hodges said. “I saw an opening in front of me and just did it.”
Wellington again answered the call following the Falcons’ latest blow. This time the Dukes turned on their defense and went on an 11-1 run in which they forced four turnovers and knocked down two deep 3-pointers.
The Dukes saw five players score during the run that pushed their lead to 46-31 late in the third quarter. Wellington never allowed the Falcons to get within 10 points following that spurt.
“We had some big stops in the third quarter and that helped us build our lead back up,” Gundert said.
Despite being down double digits, the game was as intense as ever in the fourth quarter. There was a technical foul called during the quarter along with numerous tie-ups and guys diving on the floor.
Firelands guard Jackson Talbott had eight points in the final quarter.
“The fortitude my kids showed is exactly what you want to see,” Firelands coach Alan Januzzi said. “If they continue to battle like that, good things will start to happen.”
Wellington opened the game shooting an efficient 5-of-7 from the field, fueled by two threes from Brandon Orozco.
The Dukes led 22-13 after the first quarter.
Whitaker led Wellington with 15 points while Orozco and Mason McClellan chipped in 14 points each.
The Dukes have another big game Tuesday when they host Clearview.
Contact Paul Williams at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Wellington 65, Firelands 49
FIRELANDS (49): Caden Bomback 2-1-5, Mitchell Hodges 5-3-13, Jackson Talbott 4-2-14, Austin Urban 3-0-7, Alex Angle 2-1-6, Casey Kelley 2-0-4, Jacob Schmitz 0-0-0, Evan Zidar 0-0-0. Totals 18-7-49.
WELLINGTON (65): Cole Standen 0-0-0, Ryan Whitaker 6-1-15, Noah Diermyer 4-0-9, Ben Bliss 4-0-9, Mason McClellan 5-4-14, Brandon Orozco 4-4-14, Parker Adler 2-0-4, Troy Cole 0-0-0 . Totals 25-9-65.
Firelands 13 14 9 13 -- 49
Wellington 22 11 19 13 -- 65
Three-point goals: Firelands 6-18 (Angle, Urban, Talbott 4), Wellington 6-20 (Whitaker 2, Diermyer, Bliss, Orozco 2). Free throws: Firelands 7-9 (77 percent), Wellington 9-15 (60 percent). Total fouls: Firelands 15, Wellington 12. Turnovers: Firelands 15, Padua 12.
Junior varsity: Wellington, 41-36