After 66 years, Wellsboro boys are district champs
Wellsboro players and coaches stood side by side as happy fans snapped photographs.
Some day that picture will hang in Wellsboro’s trophy case. Take a good look. Staring back at one will be the best Wellsboro basketball team there ever was. A 66-year drought ended Saturday.
At long last Wellsboro is a district champion again.
Dalton Prough scored 27 points and reached 1,000 career points and Brandyn Tuttle recorded his 19th doube-double as Wellsboro played swarming defense and defeated Loyalsock, 53-47, for the District 4 Class AAA championship Saturday at Montoursville. The Green Hornets (26-1) won just the second district championship in program history and the first since 1952.
Other teams might win the championship in the future, but this one set the standard
“I told them before the game them it’s been 66 years and you can go down as one of the greatest teams to ever play at Wellsboro. There’s been some great teams but none of them came away with a championship and these guys did,” Wellsboro coach Todd Outman said. “They cemented themselves in folklore with Wellsboro from here till the end of it.”
“My emotions are all over the place,” Tuttle said after scoring 11 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. “I was telling everyone after the game ‘I don’t know whether to jump out of my shoes or start crying.'”
There likely were many Wellsboro fans crying tears of joy as the final seconds ticked away and victory became secure. This is a journey that stretches back to the Korean War. Outman and Charlie Griscavage inherited a solid program in 2010, but their mission from Day 1 was to make it great and to make it a district champion.
Griscavage passed away three years ago, but his legacy has lived on and kept driving both players and coaches. This is a team in every sense of the word and Saturday all eight players Outman used made a strong impact.
Wellsboro (26-1) came close three times from 2013-16, losing three times in the final. One had the feeling Griscavage was proudly smiling somewere Saturday as Wellsboro won its 25th straight game, avenged its only defeat and finally reached that summit.
“Blessed. I don’t know how else to put it. Honored is a great word. As a district-wide thing the Callie Strong thing was an important part of the game and when Coach Outman and Coach G started this thing a long time ago, this was their main goal and we’re glad we got it for both of them,” Prough said. “This is for Callie Cavanaugh and Coach G.”
“I don’t even know how to put it into words. It’s crazy,” point guard Quinn Henry said after scoring 12 points. “This is what we wanted from the time we started. We lost the other district championships we played in, but we weren’t going to let this one slip away.”
Wellsboro advances to its fourth state tournament in five years and will play the District 11 runner-up Friday at a District 4 site. Loyalsock (20-7) also is state tournament bound and will play the District 2 runner-up at a District 2 site.
Loyalsock handed Wellsboro its only defeat early last December, but Prough did not play in that game. This time Prough scored nine of his 27 points in the first half and his late 3-pointer put Wellsboro up ahead to stay, 20-19 at halftime.
Loyalsock had erased halftime deficits the two previous times it met Wellsboro in the final, but the Hornets would not let history repeat itself. They opened the third quarter on a 9-1 run and built a 10-point lead as Connor Watkins fouled out. Gerald Ross (15 points) hit a buzzer-beater that made it a 4-point game entering the fourth, but Bam Brima fouled out and Wellsboro started taking control, building an 11-point lead midway through the third quarter.
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight. At halftime being up one we knew they were going to come out and press us, but we kept our composure,” Henry said. “We learned to handle pressure from that first game. We called it early. We knew it was going to be Loyalsock in the final and that they were going to bring the pressure and we were ready for it.”
Wellsboro waited 66 years for this championship so maybe it was fitting that the last three minutes felt like they lasted forever. The Hornets missed some foul shots and Loyalsock pounced, cutting a 10-point deficit with 2 minutes, 25 seconds remaining to 50-45 on Aiden Gair’s free throws. Loyalsock had a chance to pull even closer but missed a 3-pointer. Tuttle it a foul shot that made it 51-45 and then grabbed the offensive rebound after he missed the second shot.
When Tuttle made the next free throw and it was a 3-possession game with nine seconds remaining, the party started. Wellsboro fans who at times, made it feel like a home game yesterday, stood, cheered and waved shirts in joy.
“I knew it was over there. You run down the court and you just think, ‘wow! This hasn’t been done in 66 years,'” Prough said. “It’s just amazing.”
Prough scored 14 fourth-quarter points and was 11 of 13 at the line. His last free throw gave him 1,000 points and as the last second ticked off the clock, Prough and Tuttle embraced in a bear hug. Seconds later, happy teammates met at halfcourt and literally bounced with joy.
The district championship journey is finally over. The legacy these players will leave? That will last forever.
“Coach said if we win this championship this year it’s something we can tell our kids about and show our kids,” Tuttle said. “They can never take this away from us.”
Gerald Ross 6 1-3 15, Connor Watkins 3 0-1 6, Mitch Klingerman 5 0-0 10, Anthony Pastore 3 2-3 9, Bam Brima 1 0-0 2, Aiden Gair 1 2-2 5, Collin Graver 0 0-0 0, Brandon Bauman 0 0-0 0, Rees Watkins 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 5-9 47.
Dalton Prough 7 11-13 27, Brandyn Tuttle 3 5-13 11, Quinn Henry 4 1-2 12, Collin Pietropola 0 1-2 1, Nic Ingerick 1 0-1 2, Andrew Brelo 0 0-0 0, Joe Grab 0 0-0 0, Holden Kennedy 0 0-0 0, Tanner Button 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 18-30 53.
Loyalsock 7 12 7 21-47
Wellsboro 11 9 10 23-53
3-point goals: Loyalsock 4 (Ross 2, Pastore 1, Gair 1); Wellsboro 5 (Henry 3, Prough 2).
Records: Wellsboro (26-1), Loyalsock (20-7).