UPPER ARLINGTON – An education doesn’t come cheaply at The Wellington School, which will be Perry’s opponent in a Division IV semifinal at the boys state basketball tournament on Thursday night.
According to the school’s website, full tuition for the 2017-18 school year will be $23,350.
After losing to eventual D-IV state champion Cornerstone in a close game in a state semifinal last year, Wellington (19-7) is back in the state tournament to try to establish itself as the gold standard of small school basketball this season.
Wellington has seven of its top nine players back from last year, including 6-foot, 9-inch Dustin Harder (12.5 points, 8.3 rebounds a game), who scored 21 points in a 73-67 loss in the Cornerstone game last season.
Noah Berry, a 6-foot guard (9.9 points a game) and Dallas Patrick (9.3 points a game) are also returning starters. The other two starting spots belong to transfers Solomon Pierre-Louis, a 6-3 guard (10.9) and Guy Schmidt, a 5-10 point guard.
“We got off to kind of a slow start because of injuries to key positions and a very limited roster. We kind of stuck around the .500 level until we got some of those players back,” Wellington coach Artie Taylor said.
“And we had a couple of transfers who had to sit out the first 11 games. Once we got up some depth, we were able to kind of get in a rhythm and get things going,” he said.
“We scheduled up this year and played some teams that made some deep runs in the tournament – Upper Arlington, St. Charles and some Division III schools, which are schools a school like us normally wouldn’t play. But we had the talent to do so.
“This helped prepare us for the tournament, giving us looks we normally wouldn’t see during the season,” Taylor said.
Wellington’s size has been one of its most obvious strengths during its back-to-back trips to the state tournament.
“Our ability to really dominate inside and rebound the basketball and have length and size at both ends of the floor is something that has been good for us the last couple years and something we have been able to use to our advantage throughout the year,” Taylor said.
The tallest Wellington player, Harder, is also the Jaguars’ best 3-point shooter, hitting 40 percent of his attempts from behind the line.
“He likes to shoot them. He is very effective out there. We try to do some things to get him some looks out there,” Taylor said. “But we also have to kind of push him back down in there, like, ‘Hey, you’re 6-9. Do some work on the blocks, too.’ He’s a phenomenally skilled player for his size.”
Looking at Perry, he said, “Lima Perry is very, very good defensively. They’re just going to pressure you. They really get after you the full floor. That is something we haven’t seen a whole lot because teams usually just pack it in against us inside and dare us to shoot on the perimeter.
“Valuing the basketball and being patient are going to be keys for us,” Taylor said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.