By: Ed Weaver | NTL Sports | March 4, 2018 | Photo courtesy Brett R. Crossley
Eight years ago when head coach Todd Outman took over as the Wellsboro boys basketball coach, winning a district title was all he thought about. Eight years later, those dreams came true as the Hornets defeated Loyalsock 53-47 in the Class AAA championship game.
The win was the Hornets' first District championship in 66 years (1951-52).
"This team ended up winning this district title, but I don't want to forget about the guys who set the road and the guys the first year I coached," Outman reflected. "We had a great season and it set a standard for the kids coming behind to do it. And these guys, after watching seven years of disappointment, if you will, they made sure it wasn't going to happen this year and I couldn't be prouder of them and I couldn't be prouder for them.
"There's been a lot of great teams, but none of them came away with a district championship and these guys did. They cemented themselves in folklore."
Prior to this season the Hornets have fell short of their goal. In 2013 the Hornets lost to Loyalsock 57-37. In 2015 the Hornets again fell to Loyalsock, 54-35 and in 2016 Danville beat the Hornets 52-39. Loyalsock also beat Wellsboro in the 2017 Class AAA consolation game and the second game of the 2017 season in their tip-off tournament final.
That was Wellsboro's last loss of the season. 25 games ago.
In three of games against Loyalsock - the 2013, 2015, and 2017 tip-off tournament games - Wellsboro either lead or was tied at halftime. Earlier this season the Hornets were tied 25-25 with the Lancers at halftime and led 32-30 after three quarters, only to have the lead slip away. This time however, the Hornets would not be denied.
The Hornets jumped out to an early 6-0 lead and eventually made it 9-2 after a three by senior Quinn Henry. Wellsboro struggled from there and the rest of the opening quarter as the Lancers went on a 5-2 run to end the quarter, and cut it to 11-7. Loyalsock eventually took a 13-11 lead on Wellsboro early on in the second, and from there both teams battled it out the remaining seven minutes. Loyalsock got up by as much as four, but Wellsboro battled back went up 20-19 as senior Dalton Prough drained a three at the end of the half, despite being outscored 12-9.
The Hornets opened up a little gap to start the third with a 5-0 run, however Loyalsock closed the quarter out an a 6-0 run. Wellsboro still led 30-26 after the third as they outscored Loyalsock 10-7.
The Lancers got into foul trouble early in both halfs, and Wellsboro made them pay for it. After a three by Prough to start the fourth, the senior put the Hornets up 42-31 midway through the quarter as the Hornets were in the bonus, thanks mainly to two Lancer technical fouls.
Loyalsock, however, kept up the pressure and forced Wellsboro into 8 second half turnovers. Two of those cost Wellsboro and cut their lead under 10 points. The Lancers got Wellsboro's lead down to 7 with under a minute, but a tough layup by Prough while getting fouled, and the ensuing foul shot kept the Hornets in front.
The foul shot also gave Prough his 1,000th point of his career.
Despite the time running down the Lancers kept fouling. While Wellsboro is a 64% foul shooting team, they struggled down the stretch. The Lancers kept fouling junior Brandyn Tuttle following defensive rebounds. Tuttle struggled from the line, going 0-for-7 for the quarter, but he grabbed the biggest offensive rebound of the season following one of those shots, then nailed the remaining two from the charity stripe to seal the Hornets' win.
"I knew I had to do something if I wasn't going to hit them on the line," said Tuttle. "I knew I had to make a contribution some way and I think I did that."
Prough finished with a game-high 27 points.
"This is what we've been working for for eight years," said Prough. "Coach Outman and the late coach (Charles) Criscavage started this eight years ago with my oldest brother. This has been our goal for that amount of time and I'm glad we came through on it."
"When we started this eight years ago, it was he and I," explained Outman. "I think he was with us today. I don't mean to sound foolish, but I truly do."
Tuttle finished the game with his 19th double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds, Henry scored 12 points and had 3 rebounds and 4 assists, senior Nic Ingerick had 2 points, and senior Collin Pietropola rounded out the scoring with one.
Next up for the Hornets (26-1) is the first round of the PIAA state tournament against the second seed from District 11 next Saturday, March 10, at a time and location to be determined.