A crowd dressed in blue Friday remembered Drew Guyer, the McCormick Middle School student who died Dec. 17, 2013, of a heart condition.
The 13-year-old’s mother, Brandi Guyer, presented the game ball to officials before tip-off of the varsity game versus the Black River Pirates, and proceeds from the game went to the foundation established in Drew’s honor.
With the game underway, offensive rebounding and smart passing underneath the basket gave the Wellington boys a 78-48 win.
With the score tied at 5-5 halfway through the first quarter, junior Trevor Porter knew it was time for the Wellington Dukes to hit a switch. He broke away for a run that set the tone for the Dukes.
“Everyone knows in our locker room the level we need to be on the court,” said Porter, who led Wellgton with 17 points and scored eight straight in the second quarter. “After that win against Oberlin, we knew we couldn’t just go off of that. We had to move on to the next game.”
He also grabbed eight of the Dukes’ 51 rebounds. Teammates spread the wealth in that regard with Max Joppeck pulling down 12, Josh Kindel grabbing nine, Trey Bealer six, and Ryan Whitaker five.
Grant Kidd closely trailed Porter with 13 points, Kindel finished with nine, and Whitaker eight.
“I think our intensity, especially on the defensive end, is what really helped us get going,” said Kindel. “We started grabbing rebounds more. We limited their offensive rebounds and kept forcing misses. That defense sparked our offensive run.
After the early defensive struggle, the Dukes outscored the Pirates 30-13 in the remainder of the first half and followed that up with a 23-8 advantage in the third quarter.
However, that didn’t stop Black River senior Curtis Route from leading all scorers with 22 points and his team with nine rebounds.
“We were making them miss the first shot but they were getting pretty much every rebound,” he said. “We just couldn’t box them out and kept letting them get second and third opportunities. That never helps.”
Zach Hawley scored seven points for the Pirates and said Wellington’s pressure defense made things difficult.
“They just put a lot of pressure on our ball handlers,” he said. “They were making us pass to guys who don’t usually have to handle the ball and forced all of us into some bad passes.”
With a 3-1 record in the Patriot Athletic Conference, the Dukes hold a narrow edge over a logjam of 2-1 teams in Keystone, Buckeye, and Firelands.
Black River still sits within striking distance at 1-2 in the PAC.
“We were making stops on defense but just not boxing out or rebounding the basketball,” said Black River coach Josh Calame. “We let them get way too many second, third, and fourth opportunities. We played our zone defense and forced them into some missed shots. We didn’t box out then let them get going and get hot.”
Wellington has won two straight after defeating 2015 district champion Oberlin on Dec. 13.
Nick Senghas, who filled in for Dukes coach Dan Gundert for the night, said a lopsided loss to Buckeye Dec. 9 was just what the team needed.
“A loss like that can be the best thing for you,” he said. “That really focused us. I think we were a little over-confident before that and it got in our heads. That setback got us into having some good practices. Our goal is to win this league and put setbacks like that behind us. Trevor Porter got very active against their zone tonight and when he and others play like that, we’re tough to beat.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Russ Gifford | Wellington Enterprise Wellington’s Josh Kindel is fouled by Black River’s River Wheeler for a chance to complete a three-point play.