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Tweet this comment Cancel Submit Comment Subscribe to None Replies All new comments by Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow — Come Wednesday, a referee will throw a ball in the air of the vast space that is the Bicentennial Center in Salina and the 2016 Class 4A Div. 1 State Tournament will get underway. And for the next 32 minutes, the Wellington Lady Crusaders will hope to knock off De Soto in the first round state game.What will happen Wednesday is anyone’s guess. But whatever it will be, it will come after already one of the most storied and exciting years in Wellington sports history.Here are 10 significant moments that defined this charmed 2015-16 Lady Dukes’ season:1. Crusaders lose 2015 sub-state championship game.Not to start this story out with a bummer, but the 2015-16 season started the minute Wellington was ousted from last year’s sub-state championship in Winfield.The Lady Dukes were dreadful in their season-ending 50-44 loss to Rose Hill in a game that was clearly an upset.Going into the game, Rose Hill was 6-15 and had already lost earlier to the Lady Dukes in the Haven Tournament. Wellington had all of the momentum, winners of five straight and was 12-2 over the last 14 games.But two things were going against Wellington that evening. Freshman Avery Rusk was out with a stress fracture, and this team was very young – mostly built of sophomores and freshmen. Clearly the weight of the moment got to them.Wellington shot just 25 percent from the field and were plagued by turnovers. The Lady Dukes could never capture any kind of momentum – eventually losing in the final seconds.This group left Winfield ticked off. They haven’t lost since.2. Grace Mitchell transfers to Wellington.Grace MitchellThis kind of thing doesn’t usually happen in Wellington sports. Grace Mitchell was a second-team Class 6A all-state selection her junior year at Derby High School decided to transfer to Wellington her senior year.Mitchell, the daughter of Jud and Cathy Mitchell, grew up here in elementary school but transferred to Derby during her middle school years. She became a premiere basketball player and was averaging 17.6 ppg and leading the AV-CTL DI in scoring in 2014-15.She also was signing a scholarship to go to the University of Nebraska.The Lady Dukes were supposed to be good with everyone returning anyway. But with the addition of Mitchell, suddenly Wellington was a team considered elite status. They had a 6-2 perimeter player, who brought Wellington size and more diversity in scoring.When the preseason Kansas Basketball Coaches Association poll Class 4A Div. 1 poll came out, Wellington was No. 8. The expectations had already begun.3. Wellington knocks off Sterling in Kingman Tournament Championship.Hardly anybody realized it at the time but Wellington’s 56-52 victory over Sterling could arguably be the defining game of the Crusaders regular season.The two teams qualified for the Kingman Tournament championship, an annual preseason event in which team players are just getting to know one another.But after two forgettable wins against Kingman and Conway Springs, Wellington found itself in a dogfight. Sterling opened the game on a 7-0 run and led 30-21 in the first half. Their starting guard, Kylah Comley, scored 29 points and couldn’t miss beyond the arch that night.But Wellington would eventually comeback and win, taking a nine-point lead late in the game.It was Sterling’s only regular season loss of the season. The Black Bears are in the Class 3A state tournament with a 21-1 record.4. For the first time in history, Wellington is undefeated at Christmas break.Throughout WHS girls basketball history, even with the 2012 team, Wellington played some stinkers in December and had at least one loss going into January.If they were tripped up in the Kingman tournament, they were losing at Andale.But Wellington rolled through Andale pretty impressively with a 59-43 victory on the road. Wellington then disposed of Mulvane. Coach Adams in the locker room did a dance in front of the team afterwards celebrating the Lady Dukes winning streak. It was Christmas time, and the Lady Dukes were Merry.Circle proved to be a lot in Towanda in January.5. Wellington comes from behind to beat Circle in Towanda in what turned out to be the AV-CTL DIV title.The Wellington girls basketball program has endured much success over the past eight seasons. But winning a league title had remained elusive.Ultimately, the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League Div. IV title would be decided in January at Circle High School. Wellington fell behind early and was down as many as many as 10 points early in the second half. Worse, Lauryn Snipes was in foul trouble. Trailing by six, 40-34, fans got the first glimpse of what this Lady Dukes defense was all about.Circle would never get a chance to shoot the ball in the final two minutes and using Rusk free throws down the stretch, Wellington won 51-47.The Crusaders were now 7-0.Wellington wins Haven Tournament championship.6. Lady Dukes beats Goddard and old coach Kevin Hackerott for Haven Tournament crown.Wellington left the Mulvane tournament a year ago to play in the more competitive mid-season Haven Tournament Classic featuring some of the best teams in the area.The Lady Dukes knocked off Chaparral and Cheney and got to the championship game to play Hackerott’s Goddard team for the first time since he left the WHS program three years ago.Wellington couldn’t have started out hotter, taking a 13-0 lead and holding a 21-5 advantage at the end of the first quarter. Then came the grind. Hackerott implemented a pressure zone defense with a Mitchell double-team, and the Lady Dukes hit just three field goals the rest of the way.In the end, Wellington would beat Goddard 47-42 and win the Haven Tournament Championship. It did so by shooting 40 free throw attempts.Goddard would eventually qualify in the Class 5A state tournament.7. Wellington plays worst game of season and still wins. How hard is it to go undefeated during the regular season? Well, it’s basketball, where on any given night a team can play horribly or the other team could get on a roll. Just look at the L.A. Lakers upset of Golden State this weekend as an example.Wellington’s big, awful game came against Winfield on its home court. The Vikings would go on to finish 6-15 losing to teams like El Dorado and Buhler, teams the Crusaders easily beat.But on that night, Winfield came in on fire and would shoot nine 3-pointers. Still, Wellington was leading 44-43 with slightly less than four minutes to play. Then Wellington did something stunning. It stalled for the 3 minutes and 30 seconds trying to get Winfield to come out of its successful 2-3 zone.Wellington would get two late free throw, but Winfield had a chance to tie in the end. The Crusaders escaped 46-43 to go 15-0.8. Crusaders tie school record for 13 3-pointers.In case you didn’t notice, Wellington can jack up the three. The Crusaders are hoping to secure a state record in three-point percentage shooting that is currently being held by the 2002 Frontenac team at 40.2 percent. Wellington had 44.1 percent going into last week’s sub-state tournament.On homecoming with Andale in town, the Crusaders would hit 13 3-pointers, tying a school record. Mitchell and Rusk both hit four 3-pointers. Snipes had two and MeKenna Adams had two. Then freshman Jacelyn Buck nailed a trey with a fourth-quarter running clock.Wellington destroyed Andale 65-38.The Indians are now in the Class 4A Div. 1 tournament.Wellington girls celebrate erection of league title sign this morning.9. In final regular season week, Wellington girls win league title and finish regular season undefeated. With one regular season week to go, Wellington still had some work to do. On its final Tuesday night game of the year, in front of another huge crowd, the Lady Dukes defeated Circle 51-32 to secure the AV-CTL DIV crown. Unlike the game in Towanda, this game was never really in doubt.The Crusaders implemented a switch-point zone, and Circle couldn’t find the basket, hitting just four field goals in the second half – two of those in the final minute with reserves in.Then on Thursday, Wellington wrapped up an undefeated regular season, with an easy 70-27 victory over Clearwater.The Crusaders ended the season 20-0, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A Div. 1 and No. 8 in the Topeka-Capital Journal Super Poll.The state was now watching intently.10. Wellington wins sub-state over Rose Hill.The thing was, for all its success throughout the year, the season could have come crashing down in one game. The same Rose Hill team was back in the sub-state championship game with an additional Kylie Woods in the lineup. The Rockets had rattled off five straight wins and were 13-8 — much better than the 6-15 record the Rose Hill team had a year ago when it toppled Wellington.Adams said in practice last week, a picture hung below a basketball goals in the practice gymof last year’s substate game with Rose Hill. The Rockets were cheering a sub-state crown and the Lady Dukes were walking sullenly to the locker room in the background.The Lady Dukes needed this game most of all.Rose Hill would take a 14-11 first quarter lead, but the Crusaders would keep the Rockets scoreless in the second quarter.“I don’t think I had ever seen a team execute such intense man pressure defense as what we played the other night,” Adams said today at Crusaders Club. “That was all on them. They spoke to one another in the huddle, and I had nothing to do with it. That’s the kind of girls they are.”Wellington would open up a 23-14 halftime lead and that was enough to sustain it the rest of the way en route to a 46-33 victory in front of an estimated 1,700 people.And now what? The state tournament is less than 48 hours away. It makes you wonder. What memories will these Lady Dukes serve up next?Follow us on Twitter.last_img

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