By RYAN HINES
Van Wert overcame a 16-point deficit in the third quarter and
hit enough free throws down the stretch as the Cougars defeated
Celina, 64-60 on Thursday night in a Western Buckeye League
The Cougars improves to 3-1 on the season (1-1 WBL) while the
Bulldogs fall to 2-3 on the year (0-2 WBL).
Celina may have played its best and worst quarters in the same
game against Van Wert, the problem for Bulldogs fans was that
the bad quarter outweighed the good quarter.
The good quarter for Celina came in the first half after Van
Wert built an early 13-4 advantage leading to a Bulldogs timeout
with 2:27 left in the opening quarter.
From that point on, it was all Celina until the halftime horn
sounded 9:27 later. Celina senior Kelli Williams sparked the
Bulldogs run collecting eight points in a 10-1 run to close
the first quarter tying the score, 14-14.
Celina carried the momentum into the second quarter as Williams,
freshman Betsy Hone and Andrea Bryan paced the Green and White
attack which outscored Van Wert 19-3 in the second eight minutes
of action. Williams added six more points in the second stanza
while Hone and Bryan added four points apiece.
Van Wert committed 16 first-half turnovers and only hit 1-of-10
field goals after opening the game 5-of-5. While the Cougars
struggled mightily after the quick start, Celina finished the
first half 13-of-24 from the field leading to the double digit
advantage at halftime.
As good as Celina was in the second quarter, a third-quarter
implosion allowed Van Wert to get right back in the game.
The Cougars began to limit the costly turnovers in the third
quarter and as a result were able to get the towering combo
of Abbie (6-2) and Allie Clifton (5-10). The Clifton sisters
were contained to just 11 first-half points but the duo got
the offense back on track in the third quarter. The Cliftons
combined for 19 points in the third stanza and the Cougars were
down just three points with one quarter to play.
“They didn’t do anything different to get back in
the game to be honest,” said Celina head coach Jack Clouse.
“We’re a young team that came out in the third quarter
and didn’t respond when things weren’t going well
for us. We dropped our heads and I think that limited experience
plays a big role in that. It was more mental than anything.”
“We talked at halftime about focusing on the way that
we played early in the first quarter and do that again in the
third quarter,” said Alvarez. “We were aggressive
and started to play our game and that got us back into it. We
got back in the game quicker than I thought that we would.”
With the Clifton’s controlling play in the paint, Van
Wert guard Lindsey Lybold began to hit the open looks from the
perimeter leading to a 14-point effort including a short jumper
giving the Cougars a 54-52 lead with 4:45 to play in the game.
Van Wert continued to hold a slim lead, no larger than three
points until Williams, who had battled foul trouble the whole
second half, tied the score at 60-60 on an acrobatic three-point
On the Cougars’ ensuing possession, Williams fouled out
of the game on a touch foul call and Allie Clifton hit one-of-two
from the line to give Van Wert a 61-60 lead with 47 seconds
left to play.
A missed jumper and a Celina turnover on its next two possessions
led to a trio of Van Wert free throws which put the game away
late for the Cougars.
The Celina loss overshadowed a stellar performance by Hone who
nearly kept the Bulldogs in the game all by herself in the second
half. Hone scored eight points in the first half, but finished
the contest with a game-high 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting from
the field and 5-of-9 from the free-throw line.
“I watched her play once this year and I didn’t
expect her to have the type of game tonight that she had,”
lauded Alvarez. “She’s going to be a nice player
because she can shoot from the outside and drive to the basket.
We expected to see points from Williams, Bryan and Kara Osterfeld,
but 23 from Hone was unexpected.”
“I thought that Hone was a very big positive and she carried
us in the second half,” pointed out Clouse.
Williams added 18 points and a game-high seven rebounds for
Celina despite the foul trouble.
“We look so impressive at times during a game and then
not so good at other times,” acknowledged Clouse. “What
we have to do is be able to play impressive on more of a consistent
basis. We need to deal better with the bad times.”
Allie Clifton had 18 points to lead Van Wert while sister Abbie
contributed 17 points in addition to Lybold’s 14 markers.
Celina is back in action on Monday at home against Ansonia.