By Ryan Hines
With over half of the Western Buckeye League schedule already played, the Celina boys basketball team is right where it wants to be.
Celina remained in a first-place tie in the WBL standings following a 59-38 win over Bath on Friday night.
The Bulldogs improve to 8-4 on the season and 4-1 in the WBL leaving the Green and White tied for the top spot in the league standings along with St. Marys, Van Wert and Elida.
It may be crowded at the top of the standings, but Celina head coach Mike Kanney is glad that his Bulldogs are among the contenders entering the second half of the rigorous WBL slate.
"We have to come out and play every Friday night like we started out doing tonight," said Kanney. "The win over Elida was huge for us and it gives us an opportunity to be in a position where we can be in the mix in the WBL. It's always a goal to win as many games in the WBL as possible and to win it would be even better. The kids are working hard in practice and they want to contend in the league." Celina, which led from start to finish, came out stronger than it has in any other game this year and the scoreboard showed that as the Bulldogs took control early on.
Aaron Braun got the Bulldogs on the scoreboard first and Bath netted a free throw before Celina scored the next 14 points of the game to take a 16-1 advantage. Seth Staugler canned two three-pointers to hightlight the run while Scott Luthman added four points.
The success for the Bulldogs started at the defensive end of the floor, a point of emphasis this week during practice.
"Coach Imwalle (Jay) is much happier tonight than he was on Monday night," said Kanney about the Bulldogs' assistant coach, who handles most of the defensive coaching. "We didn't come out as strong as we could have against Kenton, but I thought that we came out very strong tonight. In practice our kids really seemed focused on getting better.
"I thought out kids came out and really guarded their shooters and we did a good job on their post kids. On the offensive end we were patient and got good shots," added Kanney.
Bath's Brady Cole beat the first-quarter buzzer with a jumper but Celina held a 16-3 advantage after the first eight minutes of action.
The Wildcats actually outscored the Bulldogs 26-23 over the middle two quarters, but Celina put an exclamation point on the victory in the final stanza.
Eric Klosterman and Brandon Wurster opened the quarter with back-to-back buckets, Bath hit a free throw but Luthman added a deuce to give Celina 45-29 advantage early in the fourth quarter.
Bath reduced the deficit 14 points, 49-35, at the 2:41 mark, but Celina put the game away by scoring 10 of the final 13 points with strong play from its reserves for the 21-point blowout victory.
It was a balanced scoring attack for Celina as Luthman paced all players in the game with 16 points while Staugler hit for 12 points followed by Braun's 11 points.
"We got a balanced scoring attack and the guys that came off the bench did a really good job," said Kanney.
Bath was led by Cole's nine points.
Celina is back in action again tonight on the road at Mercer County rival Coldwater.