By Ryan Hines
A troublesome first quarter was quickly erased as Celina got back to .500 on the season following a 62-45 victory over Kenton in Western Buckeye League action on Thursday.
The Bulldogs remain among the leaders in the WBL standings with a 3-1 mark in league play and up their overall record to 5-5.
The 17-point margin of victory for Celina was its largest of the season which brought a smile to Bulldogs head coach Brian Stetler's face.
"This is a good win for us because we haven't won at home for a few weeks and we were able to stretch one out for a change," said Stetler. "After the first quarter, things changed for us and we began to play like we know that we can play. We're very happy to be 3-1 in the league and I feel that this team has potential, we just have to keep climbing the ladder."
A blowout for Celina certainly wasn't looking likely in the first quarter with a dismal first eight minutes of action. Kenton led 18-9 after the first quarter due to a trapping zone defense that turned Celina turnovers into Wildcat points. Celina turned the ball over 10 times in the first quarter of play and Kenton hit eight-of-eight from the free-throw line to pave the way for the Wildcats.
"We turned the ball over way too many times and they were able to turn those turnovers into points and that gave them their big lead," said Stetler. "We can't come out and play like that, we have to be ready to play from the start. We just stunk it up in the first quarter on both ends of the floor."
The dreadful first quarter was followed by two dominating Celina quarters in which the Bulldogs outscored the Wildcats 41-15 in the second and third stanzas.
The Bulldogs shot 9-of-13 from the field in the second quarter and Cayla Hellwarth handed Celina it's first lead since the first basket of the game at 25-24 with 2:35 left in the half. Celina actually pushed its lead to six points at 30-24 but Kenton scored the final five points of the half to cut the deficit to one point at 30-29.
Any hopes of a Kenton comeback were quickly thwarted in the third quarter when Celina outscored the visitors 20-4.
Laura Link and Liz Homan led the charge from the inside and Betsy Hone delivered for the Bulldogs from the outside. Link, Homan and Hone each had six points apiece in the third stanza.
"It was just a matter of us finding what was going to work and executing it and we began to do that in the second and third quarters," said Stetler. "When we finally began to move the ball against their zone, we were able to get some open shots."
Celina shot 7-of-13 from the field in the third quarter and turned up its pressure defense forcing eight Kenton turnovers to put the game out of reach with the Bulldogs out in front 50-33 with the fourth quarter yet to play.
"In the second quarter I thought that we executed better on offense and in the third quarter was when I thought that we executed better on the defensive end," said Stetler. "We got defensive stops, grabbed the rebounds (Celina outrebounded Kenton 43-24) and were able to get some transition points. That was big for us."
Link led all scorers in the game with 17 points to go along with a game-high 10 rebounds. Hone contributed 12 points while Homan (nine rebounds) and Hellwarth each added eight points.
Cortney Cornell led Kenton with 15 points while Emily Marsico and Angela Fackler each cracked the double-digit barrier with 12 and 10 points.
Celina is back in action again on Tuesday at Marion Local for a Mercer County nonconference showdown.