Every game matters when you’re a Wellington Dukes athlete, but there are certain games that mean a little more.
Facing off against the rival Black River Pirates ups the ante, especially when you’re looking for payback.
The Pirates got the best of the Dukes on the football field and on the court in an earlier meeting this season. With Black River coming to Wellington’s home court for a Patriot Athletic Conference Stars division game, anything less than a win — and by a wide margin — was going to be unacceptable for both players and fans of the maroon and white.
In the end, a long season of struggles was capped as the Dukes, supported by a boisterous student section, routed the Pirates 66-45.
“We were on a mission tonight,” said junior Bryce Gibbs, who also plays football. “We had a lot of energy in the beginning of the game and just fed off our student section. They were loud tonight and feeling it. As players you enjoy hearing that and it pumps you up to play.”
Gibbs was a big reason the Dukes got off to a strong start. He came off the bench to score six points and corral four rebounds in the opening quarter.
With Gibbs handling the inside, the Dukes outside game went through senior Dylan Kidd. The Wellington guard scored 13 of his game-high 30 points in the first quarter as the Dukes raced to a 21-12 lead.
“That’s the way we want to start games,” said Wellington coach Dan Gundert. “The guys were focused and played with a lot of energy. We took care of the ball and played well on both ends of the court. As a coach, you can’t ask for much more than that.”
Wellington (2-17 overall, 1-12 PAC) actually trailed 6-3 as the Pirates opened the game with a pair of three-pointers from Allan Benson and Logan Goff.
The Dukes grabbed a 7-6 lead on a basket by Joey Holliday before Kidd and Gibbs took over. Kidd scored eight straight points, including a pair of three-pointers, to cap a 12-0 run that extended the lead to 15-6.
Gibbs scored the next six points to give Wellington a 21-12 lead entering the second quarter.
Wellington continued to clobber the Pirates as Kidd’s third trey of the game doubled up the score at 30-15 with 4:18 left in the half.
Black River came back to pull within 32-24 on a basket by David Jeske with 1:17 remaining before the Dukes scored four straight to take a 36-24 lead into the break.
The third quarter has been an Achilles heel for the Dukes this season, but that wasn’t the case in this game.
Kidd opened with another three-pointer to push the lead to 39-24 and the Dukes never looked back.
Kidd’s fourth trey put the Dukes up 50-35 as they continued to pour it on the Pirates. He added another long ball in the fourth quarter to extend the Dukes lead to a commanding 60-41.
“This was a game that we wanted,” said Kidd. “They beat us earlier in the year and that hurt. We wanted to pay them back tonight and show everyone how we can play. Now we need to build off it for a strong end to the regular season and into the playoffs.”
Holliday finished with 12 points while Gibbs tossed in eight points. Benson led Black River (3-14, 1-12 PAC) with 12.