BY JIM COX
Times Bulletin Correspondent
CELINA - Except for ten minutes, Van Wert, the heavy underdog, played evenly with a powerful Celina team Thursday night.Unfortunately, during those ten minutes, starting midway through the first quarter, the Lady Bulldogs went on a 33-7 run, and that was more than enough to get a 63-41 win. Celina is 15-2 overall and 5-1 in the Western Buckeye League. The Lady Cougars are 7-9 and 1-5.
Van Wert came out firing, all five starters getting a field goal in the first three minutes to lead 10-4. However, Celina ended the first period with 17 straight points to lead 21-10 after one, courtesy of nine Cougar turnovers and three Bulldog treys, two by stellar point guard Kylie Bader and one by Hillary Heiby. "We went from 10-4 (ahead) to 21-10 (behind), a 17-0 run, and we lose the game by 22 points," said Cougar coach Lance Moonshower. "I tell the girls we have a tendency to drop our heads as soon as we get a little run against us. They're a really good team, and I thought we were outplaying them pretty well at the start. We had them on the ropes, and they didn't drop their heads. They kept their heads up, kept plugging, and kept doing what their coaches tell them to do. The next thing you know it's a 17-0 run, and we couldn't seem to stop it."
Alexis Dowdy muscled in a layup to start the second quarter, but Celina scored the next nine and 14 of the next 15 to lead 35-13 with 2:46 left in the half. The visitors already had piled up 16 turnovers. However, the remainder of the game was a totally different story, with Van Wert matching the hosts point for point. Dowdy got a put-back, and Hannah Hulbert scored on a breakaway to cut the lead to 35-17. Celina's Katie Stahl countered with a put-back to make it 37-17 at the break.
"We were just tentative when they made that run," said Moonshower. "We got on our heels, started backing up, couldn't handle their pressure. Second half, we said we've gotta stop going backward and throwing the ball sideways. We gotta start attacking the pressure. We did, and we're a good team when we do that."
The Cougars' 1-2-2 zone held Celina in check in the third period - 3 of 10 field goal shooting and only ten points. However, Van Wert was an equally cold 3 of 10. The Lady Bulldogs hit 3 of 4 free throws, while the Lady Cougars didn't shoot any, allowing Celina to stretch its lead slightly - 47-24 after three. Van Wert's shooting finally heated up in the fourth period (7 of 14 from the field) as did its defense (seven Celina turnovers). However, the Bulldogs hit 9 of 10 free throws, which allowed the Cougs to win the quarter only by one, 17-16.
Moonshower explained his unorthodox move of switching to a zone despite being behind by a large margin. "We went to a zone in the second quarter, which is kinda tough when you're down that much, but it actually worked pretty well. They had quite a few possessions where they didn't score. We had a heckuva time with their bigs, so we went to a zone, tried to see if they could knock down some outside shots. It worked pretty decent, but when you're down that much, you can't sit back in a zone, so in the fourth quarter we turned up the pressure, and it worked pretty well."
Celina had big edges in free throws - 16 of 19 for 84 percent to Van Wert's 2 of 4 for 50% - and rebounds - 30-19. The Bulldogs shot a tad better from the field - 21 of 48 for 44 percent to Van Wert's 18 of 48 for 38 percent. Both teams turned the ball over a lot - Celina 21 times, Van Wert 26 times.
The Dogs had balanced scoring with five players at nine or more - Bader (16), Stahl (12), Heiby (12), Taylor Guingrich (10), and Beth Homan (9). The Cougars were also well-balanced, although on a much smaller scale - Dowdy and Kaitlynn Hall led with seven apiece, and five other players had between four and six.
The Celina jayvees (5-12) rolled to a 40-20 win. The Lady Dogs were led in scoring by Leah Bihn with 12. Riley Jones had 6 for Van Wert (3-13).
Score by quarters:
Celina 21 16 10 16 - 63 Van Wert 10 7 7 17 - 41
Guingrich 4 1-1 10, Bader 4 5-6 16, Heiby 4 3-4 12, Stahl 5 2-2 12, Bihn 1 0-0 2, Fark 0 2-2 2, Homan 3 3-4 9, Stetler 0 0-0 0, Mills 0 0-0 0, Collins 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 16-19 63.
Van Wert (41)
Hall 3 0-0 7, Dunlap 2 0-0 4, Claire Butler 3 0-0 6, Morrow 2 1-2 6, Dowdy 3 1-2 7, Hulbert 3 0-0 6, Moonshower 2 0-0 5, Handy 0 0-0 0, Livia Butler 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 2-4 41.
Three-point field goals: Celina 5 (Bader 3, Guingrich, Heiby), Van Wert 3 (Hall, Moonshower, Morrow).