By Ryan Hines
Celina's three-game winning streak was snapped abruptly in Western Buckeye League action against Van Wert at the Fieldhouse on Friday night.
Van Wert's defense suffocated the Bulldogs for three quarters and Cougars made enough free throws down the stretch to earn a 38-35 victory over Celina.
It wasn't a pretty win by any means, but Van Wert head coach Dave Froelich was especially happy with the win since it's the first time the 14-year Cougars head coach has gotten a win inside the Fieldhouse.
"This is the best win that I've ever had here because it's the only win I've ever had here," said Froelich with a sense of relief. "I like this place, but I don't like the results that I get here very often.
"It wasn't pretty basketball on either side, but I thought that both sides played with great effort," added Froelich. "We're similar teams with limitations and some of those limitations showed themselves tonight. I don't know what we did, but we did enough to get a win tonight." The defense paved the way for Van Wert (6-1, 2-0 WBL) holding Celina (3-5, 0-2 WBL) to its lowest point total of the season, including just 17 points in the first three quarters of play. The previous lowest point total for the Bulldogs came on the road against Bellefontaine on Dec. 10.
Celina picked up its offense in the fourth quarter and nearly pulled out a win scoring 18 points, one point more than the previous three quarters combined.
The Bulldogs started the fourth quarter down 12 points, 29-17, but the Celina combination of Eric Loughridge and Scott Luthman sparked a comeback for the home team.
Loughridge scored five quick points to put Celina down seven points and forced a Van Wert timeout. The Cougars then made sure to find Loughridge on the defensive end from there on out and that helped open the court for Luthman and he scored the next five Bulldogs points closing the gap to just four points with Van Wert on top, 31-27.
A pair of free throws pushed the Cougars' lead back to six points, but Loughridge drained his third three-pointer of the night to close the gap to three points at 33-30 with 26.1 seconds remaining in the game.
Van Wert then made four straight free throws to go up seven points and Derek Gagle's late five points weren't enough to pull out the win for Celina.
Offense continues to be the Bulldogs' biggest weakness shooting just 33 percent from the field on the night and just 34 percent from the field for the whole season.
"They doubled and tripled our post whenever we got the ball in there and that caused us a lot of problems," said Bihn. "We either held the ball too long on some possessions or we passed it back out and couldn't hit the outside shots. The bottom line was that they did a good job of taking away our post and we couldn't hit the open shot. Defensively, we played well enough to win, but we have to score some more points."
"Without a doubt our defense won the game for us tonight," said Froelich. "We contained Luthman and did a good job of putting pressure on them. Defensively, I thought that we were tremendous."
Loughridge, who played mostly jayvee ball at the beginning of the season, scored a season-best 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting for Celina while Luthman led the way with 12 points for the Bulldogs.
Chris Morrow paved the way for Van Wert with a game-high 14 points and Kody Heppeard added 13 points for the Cougars.
Celina is back in action again tonight on the road at Toledo Rogers.