By Karl Henkel
Exactly one year ago at precisely the same the location, Wellsville outlasted Hartville Lake Center Christian, 65-49, at Struthers Fieldhouse in a Division IV district quarterfinal.
It was deja vu Saturday evening, as Wellsville knocked off Lake Center Christian, 60-48 — once again in the district quarterfinal — to advance to the district semifinal Tuesday against Youngstown Christian.
“It feels great,” Wellsville guard Michael Johnston said. “I can’t wait to get out there and compete [Thursday].”
The Tigers (16-6) did much of their damage during a hot-shooting first half that saw them go 11 of 17 from the field. Johnston was 5 of 7 in the opening half, including 3 of 4 on 3-point attempts.
Johnston though, who scored a game-high 25 on 7 of 10 shooting, got a little too aggressive toward the end of the second quarter. He committed a pair of charging fouls and was forced to sit with three minutes to go, but the Tigers still managed to end the half on a 6-2 run.
“He gives me a nervous break down when he does that,” Wellsville coach David Thompson said. “But he gets the job done.”
The Tigers dominated in two other areas outside of shooting: rebounds, where they outpaced Lake Center Christian (12-10), 25-13, and free-throw shooting, where they made 17 of 25 to Lake Center Christian’s 4 of 7.
Lake Center Christian’s Brock Justice hit a trio of 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter that shrunk Wellsville’s lead to as little as six points, but Wellsville closed the game on an 11-5 run.
“I was real nervous,” Thompson said. “He [Justice] looked like he made one shot with his eyes closed.”
YOUNGSTOWN CHRISTIAN - SOUTHERN
In a game dominated by perimeter shooting, it came down to not one, but a trio of 3-point attempts before Youngstown Christian escaped Southern in the evening’s second district semifinal.
Down three with 15 seconds remaining, Southern had three opportunities to tie the score, but rimmed out twice and fired an airball in the game’s final seconds.
“We wanted to just spread the floor, drive and kick,” Southern coach George Whittaker said. “You always want to try and have more patience, but it’s hard to practice under that kind of pressured circumstance.”
Youngstown Christian was 11 of 20 from beyond the arc, including a pair from sophomore Daylen Williams, one of which appeared to be the dagger as time expired in the third quarter. His basket put Youngstown Christian up 10 points — its largest lead of the game to that point — and it didn’t appear Southern could muster enough to close the gap.
Williams finished with 11 — all in the second half — including eight in the fourth quarter. Louis Lee led Youngstown Christian with 18 and Devaun Adams scored 15 off the bench.
But Southern (17-4) struck back and came within three with three minutes to play partly thanks to back-to-back 3s from Trey Griffith, who scored 19. With 45 seconds left, the Indians pulled even with Youngstown Christian for the first time since midway through the first quarter.