ROCKY RIVER — A terrible start proved too much for the Wellington Dukes to recover from when they took on Lutheran West on Saturday evening.
Senior Jalen Gibbs led a valiant comeback effort, but the Dukes came up short, falling 50-42 in Patriot Athletic Conference crossover play.
The Dukes dug themselves a huge hole with 10 first-quarter turnovers and spent the rest of the game trying to catch up.
Wellington fell to 12-5.
“We did everything a lot better in the second half but we were already behind,” Gibbs said. “We just weren’t playing together and meshing well early in the game.”
The Dukes got the deficit down to 46-42 on a jumper from Erin Frenk with 30 seconds remaining. That capped a furious comeback that was led by Gibbs, who scored 16 straight points for the Dukes spanning the third and fourth quarters.
The four-point deficit was the closest Wellington had been since the first quarter and came just minutes after trailing 43-32.
Unfortunately for the Dukes, Lutheran West knocked down four straight free throws to ice the game.
“I had a smaller girl guarding me so I was just trying to be aggressive,” Gibbs said. “When you’re scoring like that you just have to keep going and not think about it.”
Wellington turned the ball over on its first five possessions, and the Longhorns made them pay. Lutheran West scored after all five of those turnovers, racing out to a 9-0 lead two minutes into the game.
Frenk finally ended Wellington’s drought, converting a layup on the Dukes’ first field goal attempt. The Dukes continued to struggle, however, committing three more turnovers and falling behind 15-2.
“We started really slow and we didn’t have our normal energy,” Frenk said. “We didn’t take care of the ball and our defense wasn’t playing well, either.”
After making little impact in the first half and sitting out much of it due to an illness, Gibbs put the Dukes on her back as they mounted the second-half comeback. The senior scored 18 points in the half while also picking up two steals and two blocks.
“We did a good job fighting back into it, we just weren’t able to get over the hump,” Gibbs said.
Each time the Dukes got close the Longhorns (15-3, 11-2) responded, led by fiery senior point guard Larnae Vance. She had seven steals and scored a game-high 24 points, relentlessly attacking the basket in transition and in the half-court.
“I was really pleased with how competitive we played tonight,” Lutheran West coach Trey Senney said. “We have been doing a really good job of answering the other teams’ pushes of late.”
Gibbs led the Dukes with 20 points, adding nine rebounds and four blocks.
Lexi Wright was the only other Wellington player to score in double figures, chipping in 12 points on four 3-pointers.
“One thing I can take from this game is the fight my girls showed the entire way,” Wellington coach Nathan Morris said. “We didn’t do a good job of responding to their aggression early on and that hurt us.”
Lutheran West 50, Wellington 42
WELLINGTON (42): Brooklinn Damiano 0-0-0, Grace Dudziak 1-0-2, Julie Molek 1-0-2, Jalen Gibbs 9-2-20, Lexi Wright 4-0-12, Jill Laposky 0-0-0, Jenna Calfo 0-0-0, Erin Frenk 3-0-6. Totals 18-2-42.
LUTHERAN WEST (50): Larnae Vance 10-3-24, Kelly Miles 0-0-0, Jashuana Harris 1-0-2, Hope Kiraly 0-2-2, Talia Felton 0-0-0, Paris Mather 5-2-12, Evelyn Albers 0-1-1, Julia Ellerbruch 3-2-9. Totals 19-10-50.
Wellington 9 8 13 12 — 42
Lutheran West 17 9 11 13 — 50
Three-point goals: Wellington 4-8 (Wright 4), Lutheran West 2-12 (Vance, Ellerbruch). Free throws: Wellington 2-6 (33 percent), Lutheran West 10-15 (66 percent). Total fouls: Wellington 13, Lutheran West 11. Turnovers: Wellington 23, Lutheran West 15.
Junior varsity: Wellington, 43-35.