By Ryan Hines
The Celina girl's basketball team took a major step in the right direction on Thursday night.
Celina head coach Brian Stetler continually preached that winning a close game could give his young team the confidence it needs to be a consistent basketball team.
Stetler got exactly what he was looking for as his Bulldogs edged Shawnee 53-49 in a Western Buckeye League matchup at the Fieldhouse.
"It's always big to get a win when you are a young team but the way that we won this game is what's especially satisfying," said Stetler. "It was a good game from start to finish and winning a close game like this can really boost a team's confidence. Hopefully this will give us some confidence and we can build on this win. We just hung in there and made some big plays throughout the game. It's good to beat a good team like Shawnee because they are a good team that is very well coached."
It was the first WBL victory for Celina on the season as the Green and White improve to 3-4 overall and 1-2 in league play. Shawnee falls to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the WBL. In a game where neither team led by more than four points, making plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter was the key to picking up a win and the Bulldogs were able to do that in the final 2:19 of the game.
Shawnee built a 47-43 lead in the fourth quarter behind the play of Tori Feltz in the post. Feltz, the Indians' leading scorer on the season scored 10 of her 15 points in the final eight minutes, including a short jumper to give Shawnee the four-point advantage.
"They were really looking for her in the fourth quarter and she
responded," said Stetler. "She's a strong player in the post and she showed that. We had some breakdowns on defense and she scored."
Celina senior Allison Hoying then made two huge plays for the
Bulldogs. Hoying drained a three-pointer from the corner and then added a strong drive to the basket for two points giving Celina a 48-47 lead.
"She hit two really big shots back-to-back for us in the fourth
quarter and we need to hit shots like that," said Stetler. "We need people to step up in situations like that."
Feltz responded right back for Shawnee with a power layup but missed the free throw on the potential three-point lead leaving the Indians in front, 49-48.
After calling a timeout with 39 seconds left to play in the game,
Celina executed a perfect fastbreak to regain the lead. With Shawnee deciding to go with fullcourt pressure on Celina, Betsy Hone passed to Liz Homan in the backcourt who fired to Amy Harner at midcourt who then delivered a perfect bounce pass to Laura Link for a layup giving the Bulldogs a 50-49 lead.
"It was nothing planned out of the timeout or anything, the girls
just went out and took what the defense gave them in that situation," said Stetler. "It was another situation in the game where we needed someone to step up in that situation and do what the defense was giving us."
Following a Shawnee timeout with 24 seconds left to play, the Indians got what they wanted when Molly Thompson received the ball cutting to the basket and was fouled by Link with 15.9 seconds remaining in the game.
Thompson, just a freshman, missed both free throws keeping Celina's lead at one point.
Homan, just a freshman herself, then had a chance to push the
Bulldogs' lead to three points and she took advantage. Shooting just 28.6 percent from the line on the season, Homan calmly converted on both free tosses giving the Green and White a 52-49 lead.
Shawnee's Amber Heistan, who led all scorers with 19 points, then shot an ill-advised two-point shot, despite being down by three points with five seconds left on the clock and her miss was rebounded by Celina's Kinsey Schumann. Schumann went to the line and made one-of-two to push the Bulldogs' lead to four points, icing the win.
Homan was a force for Celina in the clutch and throughout the game on the low block posting a double-double with a team-high 12 points and a team-best 10 rebounds.
"Liz Homan is getting better and better each day," said Stetler. "She stepped up her game a little bit tonight and she did a good job on defense against Thompson (0 points on Thursday, 19 points in first matchup). She'll continue to get better and I really like what she gives us. As a freshman, she came through with two big free throws in a big situation."
Also reaching double digits for Celina were Hone with 11 and Link with 10 points. Smalley also hit for eight points while Hoying contributed seven.
The Celina win on Thursday avenged an earlier loss to Shawnee from the OVISCO Classic championship game where the Indians defeated the Bulldogs, 54-45.
Celina is back in action on Saturday at Greenville
NOTE: The Greenville Athletic Boosters are hosting a chili dinner on Saturday from 12-6 p.m. in the Greenville High School Cafeteria.
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