By Gary R. Rasberry
The year for the Celina boys basketball team has gone from slow to glow in just two short weeks.
After starting the season 0-4, the Bulldogs have won three straight and will look for a fourth at the Fieldhouse on Friday against 5-1 Van Wert.
The season looked to be dim after the first four games, losses to non-conference teams like Linden McKinley and Piqua along with the Western Buckeye League opening loss to rival St. Marys.
The Bulldogs rebounded in beating Greenville to go into the Christmas break with a win.
Then came the HALLiday Shootout. After beating Bryan in the opening game, the Bulldogs hung in with a tough Worthington Kilbourne team, posting a 49-40 victory to capture a 12th HALLiday title and the first since 2003.
The Bulldogs got their spark in the game by junior Brian Dorsten. After going three games without a point, Dorsten sank nine free throws in the fourth quarter to finish with 16 points in the win.
While senior Scott Luthman leads the way in averaging 12.7 points per game, the key for Celina has been its way to find an additional scorer when needed. In the Bryan win, postmen Andy Muhlenkamp and Justin Chapel each had nine points to help Celina win by 20 over the Golden Bears. In the Kilbourne game, freshman Derek Gagle had 10 to help keep Celina in the game. Muhlenkamp is averaging nearly eight points a game while Gagle is steady with 6.4 ppg.
Van Wert, though, will possibly be missing a key cog. Junior Jared Myers, who has a history of shoulder problems, reinjured his shoulder in the Cougars' win over Delphos Jefferson last week. It's still unclear whether the injury was as serious as it was keeping him from quarterbacking the football team this season and his status is unknown for the Celina game.
Kody Heppeard picked up the pace that Myers' shooting provided. Heppeard scored 22 in the win over the JeffCats with Kyle Klinker and Kyle Smelser adding 10 each in the win.
Inside, the Cougars will look to sophomore Chris Morrow, who transferred with sister Andrea -- a starter for the Cougars' girls basketball team -- from Delphos St. John's. The 6-5 Morrow had 12 in the win over Jefferson and added 13 in the lone loss of the season, a 49-46 game to Coldwater.
Klinker and Jordan Kline -- both standing 6-3 -- also provide big inside play for Van Wert.
Celina has had plenty of success against Dave Froelich's group the past nine seasons, going 7-2 against Van Wert. Froelich has never won against Celina at the Fieldhouse.