WELLINGTON — Jalen Gibbs shook off a scary moment in the first quarter to have a big game, but even that wasn’t enough to help Wellington shake Buckeye.
While the Dukes rallied to force overtime thanks largely to Gibbs’ 22-point, nine-rebound effort, they couldn’t solve the Bucks’ defense in a 49-43 loss Wednesday.
“I can’t say enough about her,” Wellington coach Nathan Morris said of Gibbs, who was unavailable after the game. “The effort she puts forth, she’s a tough kid. She pretty much does everything for us. I was extremely proud of her effort tonight, and she gives that effort every night.”
Buckeye (19-3) locked up the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division crown on Monday, but the win sealed its first 16-0 season in the league. Wellington fell to 14-6, 12-3.
“It’s amazing,” Buckeye senior Elizabeth Whetstone said. “We’ve been working for this for as long as we could hope. To get this win tonight and really seal the deal, and coach has been really emotional about it, it’s pretty awesome.”
The worst-case scenario almost came to fruition for Wellington when Gibbs landed awkwardly on her right ankle and needed to be helped off the court early in the first quarter.
The Dukes were already playing without one of their best players — senior forward Alexis Lehmkuhl, who was averaging about 15 points and seven rebounds through 10 games before injuring her left leg.
Gibbs returned in the second quarter and scored the next nine points for the Dukes, going strong to the rim for a layup on her first possession back. The Dukes built a 12-9 lead, but the Bucks’ defense settled in and forced eight turnovers during a 15-7 run to go up five at halftime.
“We just battled,” Morris said. “Our girls left it all out on the floor. A couple of things execution-wise didn’t go right down the stretch, but I can’t fault the effort because it’s been there all year long.”
Wellington rallied in the third with senior forward Erin Frenk hitting back-to-back jumpers and freshman Amanda Spiekerman draining two free throws in the final 3:40 to force a tie at 34 heading into the fourth.
Defense took over for both sides as the teams scored just five points each — combining for three field goals. Both of the Dukes’ baskets came from Gibbs, including a nice cut to the rim off an assist from Spiekerman to tie the game with 1:46 left.
Wellington had two chances during that span, but missed a field goal and turned the ball over. Buckeye did the same, and on its third chance with 17 seconds left couldn’t get a shot off thanks to strong defense from Gibbs in the post.
Whetstone, who was limited to two points through regulation, opened overtime with a 3-pointer. She scored four of her six points in the final period as Buckeye connected on five of six free throws free throws to seal the win.
“That was a good preparation for the tournament,” Morris said. “This was a tournament-type game, a tournament atmosphere. This was a really solid game to get us prepared for the tournament moving forward here.”
Buckeye 49, Wellington 43 (OT)
BUCKEYE (49): Gabby Glancy 4-4-13, Elizabeth Whetstone 2-1-6, Madison Ross 3-1-7, Sydney Bell 3-2-9, Tatum Widenmeyer 1-1-3, Autumn Meyer 1-2-4, Courtney Keeler 1-0-2, Alyssa Becket 2-0-5. Totals 17-11-49.
WELLINGTON (43): Lexi Wright 0-0-0, Jalen Gibbs 10-2-22, Erin Frenk 4-1-9, Brooklinn Damiano 0-0-0, Amanda Spiekerman 1-2-4, Grace Dudziak 1-0-2, Julia Molek 3-0-6. Totals 19-5-43.
Buckeye 7 17 10 5 10 — 49
Wellington 8 11 15 5 4 — 43
Three-point goals: Buckeye 4-20 (Becket, Bell, Glancy, Whetstone), Wellington 0-11. Field goals: Buckeye 17-51 (33 percent), Wellington 19-48 (40 percent). Free throws: Buckeye 11-22 (50 percent), Wellington 5-10 (50 percent). Rebounds: Buckeye 35 (Bell 12), Wellington 31 (Frenk 10, Gibbs 9). Total fouls: Buckeye 12, Wellington 19. Fouled out: Wright. Turnovers: Buckeye 18, Wellington 23.
Junior varsity: Buckeye, 57-40