By Gary R. Rasberry
In searching for the proper words to describe Thursday's Bath-Celina Western Buckeye League girls basketball game at the Fieldhouse, one would have to use the words that Bath coach Greg Mauk used -- feast or famine.
Both teams saw both ends of that spectrum through the 32 minutes of playing time. In the beginning, Celina was playing well and Bath could not hit the broad side of the barn.
Toward the end of the third quarter and through the first half of the fourth, the spectrum changed with Celina getting cold while Bath got hot.
Then in a five-minute streak in the fourth quarter, neither team could score. To sum it up, the final minute and five seconds of the game turned out to be the most exciting of the night.
Bath's Amy Simindinger stole the ball, drove and hit the winning bucket before the horn sounded to give the Wildkittens a 45-43 win over the Bulldogs. The Wildkittens (8-4, 4-1 WBL) trailed 37-19 with 4:46 to go in the third quarter before Celina turned south in a hurry.
The Bulldogs (4-9, 1-4 WBL), which had turned the ball over only five times in the first half, started losing the ball more frequently in the second. Bath finally was able to connect with some shots and slowly began trimming the deficit.
Bath got to within seven to start the fourth quarter and after Celina turned the ball over for the eighth time in the second half, Simindinger scored on a jumper to make it a five-point game. Celina finally snapped a scoreless streak that lasted 51/2 minutes when Laura Link got an offensive rebound and a stickback.
Bath's Amanda Houchin followed up with five straight points to make the score 39-38 with 6:07 left, the closest the game had been all night.
Then both teams got cold. Bath would shoot and miss, while Celina turned the ball over on four straight possessions. With 1:05 to go, Meg Smalley scored on a jumper to make it 41-38. Houchin got the ball and fired a three-pointer with 50 seconds left and the ball swished through the net to give Bath its first tie of the game.
"We did a good job taking care of the ball for 3/4 of the game," said Celina coach Brian Stetler.
Celina brought the ball down but lost it. Houchin hurt her knee at midcourt chasing after the ball, but instead of falling down, the Bath senior scampered to the ball, went to the hoop, made the basket after being fouled, then fell to the floor in extreme pain. Houchin was carried off the court but came back from the trainer's table to watch the conclusion.
"The comeback was fueled by (Houchin). My thoughts are with her right now," said Mauk. "I don't think I've ever seen a gutsier play in my life."
Carly Ramsdell came on to shoot the free throw but missed. Liz Homan rebounded and got the ball down quickly. The ball came to Laura Link, who hit a bunny with 22 seconds left to tie the game again.
After a timeout, Simindinger drove and was fouled going to the basket. The junior missed both chances with 10.9 seconds left. Homan rebounded and tried to get the ball to Betsy Hone but Simindinger stripped the ball away, charged down, looked at the basket and hit a layup at the buzzer to end the game.
"Great play by Amy," said Mauk. "She gets the ball, she dribbles down the floor, has the presence of mind to look up at the scoreboard to see how much time she's got and goes to the basket. That's great court presence."
"I thought the girls did what we asked them to do for the most part," said Stetler. "We knew Bath was going to make a run. They're good shooters. They shoot the three and they're not going to quit. We just didn't get a couple of things to go our way -- a shot missed, free throws (Celina was 5-of-12 from the line), turnovers. That's costly in a game like that.
"Our kids proved that they could play with good teams already. Now they just have to find a way to get over the hump and win (against a good team). I know we can do it," added Stetler.
Celina had a strong first half, taking a 13-2 lead after one quarter. Bath did not hit a field goal until the second quarter and was just 4-of-19 from the floor at the half. Celina was over 50 percent (11-of-21) in the first half and finished up a respectable 17-of-36 (47 percent).
"It was a game of feast or famine. We were famine for 3 1/2 quarters," said Mauk. "I thought (Celina) shot the ball really well, give them a lot of credit. The first half especially, I don't know how many outside shots they missed, but you can probably count it on one hand. Betsy Hone and (Homan) are two very good basketball players."
Link finished with 13 points to pace Celina while Hone added 10 points. Houchin led all scorers with 16 points while Simindinger ended up with 15.
Celina travels to Putnam County on Thursday to face unbeaten Ottawa-Glandorf, the fourth-ranked team in the state for Division II, in WBL action.