By Gary R. Rasberry
COLDWATER -- There's a poster that's been very popular over the years of a kitten hanging from a tree branch trying to hold on for dear life.
The caption of the poster says "Hang in there."
The Coldwater Cavaliers did their impression of that poster after shooting as poorly as possible from the field in the first half.
After making just four field goals in 31 tries in the first half, the Cavaliers rebounded and knocked off Celina, 52-46, at the Palace in the schools' annual Mercer County matchup. The Cavaliers improve to 5-2 with the win with Celina dropping its second straight game to go to 4-7.
"It's always tough when your offensive shots aren't falling," said Coldwater coach Nick Fisher, whose team shot a more respectable 10-of-23 in the second half. "I think in the second half we did a better job running the offense and trying to get into the flow of the game." Coldwater came to life in the second half after trailing the Bulldogs 31-20 at halftime as both teams went to the foul line often in the game. In fact, Neither team shot well from the field in the first half. The first field goal of the game did not come until the 3:27 mark of the first quarter. Both teams drove to the hoop often, resulting in foul shots. Celina made eight of their nine tries in the first quarter while Coldwater was 4-of-6.
Celina kept driving and getting fouled in the second quarter, resulting in a 15-of-18 output from the stripe in the first half as the Bulldogs outscored the Cavaliers 21-14 in the second quarter to take a 31-20 lead at the break. Laura Link, Liz Homan and Julie Snyder combined for 20 of the 31 points for Celina.
The Bulldogs looked like they had a lock on the game, leading 35-25 with 4:37 left in the third quarter when the Cavaliers finally found their shooting stroke. Amanda Harting sandwiched two three-pointers around a bucket by Jessica Bettinger and a pair of free throws from Kelly Obringer to tie the game as the third-quarter horn sounded.
"Amanda is one of our leaders" Fisher said of Harting, who led all scorers with 14 points. "She's struggled. Right now, we have more confidence in her shot than she does."
"They grabbed the momentum from us," said Celina coach Brian Stetler. "We played a good first half. We did things we needed to do, but they came back and grabbed the momentum. From there, we kind of fought it off for awhile and thought we were getting over the hump."
The teams traded the lead for the first four minutes of the final quarter with Celina getting a 46-43 lead with 3:29 left when Betsy Hone, who was held scoreless through the first three quarters, got the bucket and the foul.
But that would be the final points for Celina as Coldwater picked up the defense. Kendra Robbins cut it to 46-45 with 2:41 left with a layup. Celina tried to get an answer, but turnovers kept Celina from scoring. Harting came up big again with her fourth trey of the game with 1:04 left to put Coldwater up 48-46. Celina was forced to foul as Coldwater hit four of its five free throws in the final 38.1 seconds to ice the game.
"I thought our kids played fairly well," said Stetler. "We're just not quite playing four quarters of basketball. ... I saw some improvements. Hopefully, we can get ready for the next half (of the season)."
Rebounding played a big part in Coldwater's win, outboarding Celina 46-31 in the game. The board work was spread out as Obringer, Bettinger, Betsy Homan and Tasha Stucke each had six boards.
"The first half, I was kind of upset because I thought we didn't do a good job of getting some of those backside rebounds," said Fisher. "The second half, we did a better job of putting a body on them and coming up with some."
The Cavalier defense also forced turnovers. Celina had 14 miscues in the second half and finished with 20.
"Taking care of the ball has been a little bit of a problem for us this year," said Stetler. "We have to do a better job. ... Six turnovers in the first half was a plus for us."
Link finished with 11 points for Celina while Liz Homan had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Leah Wenning added eight points off the bench for Coldwater.
Coldwater returns to action on Tuesday when the Elida Bulldogs come to the Palace. Celina has the rest of 2004 to get ready for the second half of the season. The next game for Celina is Jan. 6 at Elida.