Hornets advance to D4 final, states

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Wellsboro’s Joseph Grab tries to drive around Southern Columbia's Brett Szuler in the second quarter at Williamsport High School on Tuesday.

As Dalton Prough dribbled away the final seconds Tuesday night, Wellsboro fans stood and applauded. After a year of waiting, redemption finally was Wellsboro’s.

And now the Green Hornets have a shot at ending a drought that dates back to the Dwight Eisenhower administration.

Brandyn Tuttle recorded his 18th double-double, Prough played a well-rounded game and the defense dominated as Wellsboro avenged last year’s District 4 Class AAA semifinal loss to Southern Columbia and routed the Tigers, 53-28, Tuesday at Williamsport. The Green Hornets (25-1) won their 24th straight game and will be trying to win the program’s first district championship since 1952 this weekend when it faces Loyalsock.

“It’s pretty sweet knowing last year we lost to them. I thought we should have won last year but we just didn’t play our game and tonight we came out with that in mind and played a really great game,” Prough said after scoring 12 points, dealing seven assists and grabbing five rebounds. “We executed really well what we worked on in practice. We really played well as a team collectively.”

“We talk a lot about emotions and being anxious and nervous and I remind them that the only time you should be anxious and nervous is if you’re unsure of what we’re doing or you’re not sure what your role is or what your job is and none of that happened,” Wellsboro coach Todd Outman said. “The kids did a great job.”

Tuttle owned the paint, scoring 23 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. Equally impressive was how Wellsboro shut down a potent Southern offense. The Tigers average 60 points per game but were held to a season-low 28 and scored more than seven points just once in four quarters. Guards Elijah Dobson and Tobias Walden average a combined 31 points per game. Wellsboro held them to 10 as it built a 26-12 halftime lead and never let Southern (14-10) sniff a second-half comeback attempt.

Wellsboro mixed up its defenses and used its potent combination of speed and length to smother guards, cut off passing lanes and force 16 turnovers through the first three quarters. Southern made just 8 of 28 shots and most of them were strongly contested. Andrew Brelo was vital to the defensive success and had four steals while Tuttle added three. Joe Grab, Holden Kennedy and Tanner Button provided quality minutes off the bench and Wellsboro played relentless defense from start to finish.

“I was really concerned about their guards. I was really impressed by what I saw of them on film and the guys did a good job and held them down and didn’t let them get to the hoop as much as they had previously,” Outman said. “They do believe in that defense and they understand that’s what is going to take to win.”

“We work hard,” Tuttle said. “Tonight was like a revenge game after taking that 7-point loss and we knew we had to come out and play our best and work hard for the win.”

A year ago, Southern owned the boards in the semifinal win. Tuttle was a major reason those roles reversed themselves last night. Wellsboro doubled up Southern on the boards and Tuttle had a double-double by early in the third quarter. When Wellsboro opened up a 20-point lead less than three minutes into the third, Southern tried changing the game’s complexion by going to a full-court press.

The Hornets dissected that press and opened a 45-20 late in the quarter as Prough repeatedly fed Tuttle inside. Tuttle scored 10 third-quarter points, Quinn Henry hit a key 3-pointer and Wellsboro never led by less than 18 in the game’s final eight minutes when it allowed just three points.

“I don’t take any of the credit for what I did. I give the credit to my teammates being able to move the ball around and swing it,” Tuttle said. “I got a bunch of easy buckets off of Dalton and my teammates.”

Wellsboro trailed briefly 3-2 early in the game, but Grab scored five points in the first quarter as Wellsboro started seizing control and took a 15-7 lead. Nic Ingerick also hit a first-quarter 3-pointer as the Hornets helped open up the inside where Tuttle went to work, scoring seven second-quarter points. Five players scored during that first quarter as Wellsboro showed its balance and offensive diversity. It was more of the same in the third when Henry’s 3-pointer answered Southern’s first basket and when Collin Pietropola started giving Southern inside problems.

In addition to going for its first district title in 66 years, Wellsboro also now has a shot to avenge its only loss. Loyalsock defeated Wellsboro in its Tip-off tournament and also beat Wellsboro in the 2013 final. The Hornets are state tournament and district final-bound for the fourth time in six seasons and have quite an opportunity this weekend.

“These are what you work for all season. This is why you try to go undefeated and get the No. 1 seed,” Prough said. “You want to be able to get to the district championship and you want to be able to play the best teams. These are the exciting ones.”

Southern Columbia (28)

Tobias Walden 1 0-0 2, Elijah Dobson 2 5-6 8, Brett Szuler 2 0-0 6, Oak Six 0 0-0 0, Blake Day 0 0-0 0, Jake Petro 1 0-0 2, Mike Adamski 3 2-2 10. Totals 8 7-8 28.

Wellsboro (53)

Dalton Prough 5 2-2 12, Brandyn Tuttle 8 7-8 23, Quinn Henry 1 3-3 6, Collin Pietropola 1 0-1 2, Nic Ingerick 1 0-0 3, Andrew Brelo 1 0-0 2, Holden Kennedy 0 0-0 0, Joe Grab 2 0-1 5, Tanner Button 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 12-15 53.

Southern 7 5 13 3–28

Wellsboro 15 11 19 8–53

3-point goals: Southern 5 (Szuler 2, Adamski 2, Dobson 1); Wellsboro 3 (Henry 1, Ingerick 1, Grab 1).

Records: Wellsboro (25-1), Southern (14-10).