By Gary R. Rasberry
It was a tough challenge for the Celina Bulldogs to step up to on Tuesday.
Beat an undefeated Lima Senior team that boasted a Division I college signee in Travis Walton.
In the end, the Bulldogs made sure that the Spartans would know who they played as Lima Senior won the 25th Annual HALLiday Shootout in a close 70-64 battle at the Fieldhouse. The Spartans run their record to 9-0 with the win.
The Bulldogs (4-4) battled back from several double-digit deficits to get as close as four points with a minute left. Being forced to foul, the Bulldogs had to foul Walton, who made his last six free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
"At halftime, we were down 10 (38-28), and our kids weren't real happy with the way they played," said Celina coach Mike Kanney. "We talked about what we needed to do in the second half. One, we needed to do a better job of executing our offense ... We had to, number two, stop their penetration. They were going through us like we were standing still. Those were the two things killing us early." "That's why I scheduled this game," Spartans coach Mark Gaffney said in praising Celina. "Mike always has his teams well prepared. They have some excellent shooters. You know you're going to be in for a battle when you come down here to play."
One thing that plagued Celina was turnovers. The Bulldogs committed 15 turnovers thanks to tenacious Spartan defense.
The zealousness of the Spartans did lead to some free throws, as Celina made 16-of-20 in the game.
"That's one of our goals," said Kanney. "We want to get there (foul line) as much as possible. That's a big plus."
The Bulldogs came up with a strong night shooting from the field overall (51.2 percent) and from the three-point line (7-of-17) as the Bulldogs cut into the Spartan lead. Aaron Braun became a thorn in the Spartans' side with a 6-of-6 third quarter from the field for 13 of Celina's 19 points in the quarter. Guarded by 6-9 Keith Jackson, Braun (Continued from page 1B)
either went outside, making one of his two three-pointers in the quarter, or driving to the lane past Jackson.
"I was real pleased with the way Aaron attacked the basket," Kanney said of Braun, who finished with 18 points.
Just when it seemed Celina was closing in on the Spartans, a big shot would come their way. More often than not, it was Walton who had the shot. The Michigan State signee ended the third quarter with a long three-pointer before the buzzer, which turned Celina's five point deficit at 52-47 to a 55-47 lead for Lima going into the fourth quarter.
Brandon Cooks' trey to start the fourth made it a 10-point game before Celina came back again as Brandon Wurster, who was held to just seven points at the break, drove in and drew the foul as the shot went through to get the game back to seven. Lima tried to put the game away, but Celina continued to come back at every opportunity. With 44.5 seconds left Wurster drained a three to cut it to 63-59. Out of timeouts, Celina tried to foul and even tried to foul before the ball was inbounded. Lima continued to get the ball to Walton, who drained six straight free throws in the final 44 seconds to push the lead to 70-62. Seth Staugler was fouled trying a three as a horn sounded. Officials first waved off the foul to signal the game was over but reversed course and allowed Staugler to shoot. The 5-7 senior made two of three to get to the final score.
"They had a lot of weapons," Kanney said of Lima Senior. "They're very quick. Travis Walton is a special player. He does a lot of nice things."
Walton finished with 26 points, thanks to 7-of-9 shooting from the foul line. Walton's 47 points in the tournament earned the senior the Most Valuable Player award for the Shootout.
"He's a Big Ten player and a senior. He should make all those shots," said Gaffney. "He's the ball in his hands as long as he's playing and I'm coaching."
Jackson, who had his second straight double-double of the tournament with 11 points and 15 rebounds, and Chris McLellan (13 points on Tuesday) joined Walton of the All-Tournament team.
Braun and Wurster, who finished with 16 points, made the all-tournament team for Celina. Staugler finished with 15 points, 11 coming in the first half.
Woodward's Robert Barner rounded out the team. Woodward won the consolation game with a 55-33 win over Springfield North. Dejuane Pettaway led Woodward with 11 with Thomas Fench adding 10. Jerome Flowers led North with 12 points. Vincent Corner added 11.
HALLiday Shootout All-Tournament Team
Lima Senior (MVP)