Wellsville 'gets over the hump' with sub-state title

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald
Wellsville senior Jackson Showalter was fouled as he took the ball to the basket with the game tied at 65 in the final minute.

The Wellsville High School seniors were fueled by past sub-state losses.

The Eagles played in their third state sub-state final Saturday at Kermit Deterding Gym. As freshmen in 2018, the Eagles lost to Osage City on a buzzer-beating layup. Their sophomore year, Wellsville came up short again. In 2020, Burlington slipped past Wellsville in the finals.

The Eagles had redemption in their sights against the same Wildcat team in 2021.

“We remembered,” Wellsville senior Jackson Showalter said. “We wanted to come out and beat them here.”

Burlington and Wellsville were tied with 40 seconds left and the Eagles rose to the occasion to pull out a 68-65 victory.

Wellsville senior Zeb Harris keeps the ball away from the Burlington defender on a drive to the hoop.

“All of them played pretty well at the end,” Wellsville coach Roger O’Neil said. “The seniors stepped up. They understood this could be it.”

Senior Ayden Kearney said the Eagles were calm, coming out of a timeout in a tied game.

“Jackson got us in the huddle and we were all laughing,” Kearney said. “We were having fun out there. I love playing games like that. We stayed calm.”

Showalter took over after the timeout. He drove to the basket and was fouled. Wellsville rebounded a missed free throw and senior Kaden O’Neil was fouled. That sequence of plays gave the Eagles a three-point lead. Wellsville then dug in defensively as Burlington missed a game-tying trey.

Wellsville freshman Dezmond Winton’s aggressive play nets a bucket in the lane.

Kearney said Wellsville was looking for a good shot and was not holding the ball for a final shot.

“Jackson dribbled to the hole and he got fouled,” he said.

Showalter felt confident in that situation.

“My teammates trusted me,” he said.

Wellsville senior Jimmy Dorsey rebounded the missed shot and buzzer sounded. The emotions poured out of the Eagles.

“The feeling that I had last year, I let that all go,” Kearney said. “I remember last year watching them celebrate.”

Showalter crumpled to the floor as he was overcome with emotion.

“All the emotions came out,” he said. “It was relief and finally winning it. Last year, we lost by a couple of points. This year, we went over the hump. It has been a long run. It is like a family.”

Wellsville (20-3) advances to Tuesday’s state tournament quarterfinals at Galena (21-2). Tip is at 6 p.m.

“It is always a goal to make it to state, now it is we have to win state,” Showalter said. “Anyone can come out on top. We always believe in ourselves.”

Kearney said why not Wellsville.

“There are a lot of really good teams (at state),” he said. “I feel like we are one of the best. That is why we are going to state. We have to win three more.”