By Ryan Hines
Nearly the entire Celina girls basketball team battled through a case of the flu all week long and then had the tough task of playing against Western Buckeye League leading Ottawa-Glandorf at the Fieldhouse on Thursday.
Ottawa-Glandorf kept its league title hopes alive by holding off Celina 46-45 in a showdown to the finish.
"We won tonight so now we have a chance to play for the league title on Thursday against Shawnee," said Ottawa-Glandorf mentor Lori Smith. "That's all we've wanted from the start of the year is to have a chance at the league title and we have that."
The Titans (12-5) are atop the WBL standings with a mark of 6-2 sharing the spot with Bath and St. Marys. O-G will have to beat Shawnee on Thursday to claim at least a share of the WBL crown.
The term "moral victory" was never used, but Celina head coach Brian Stetler was happy with the play of his Bulldogs considering the tough week they have had battling the flu virus. "We were only able to have five girls with us on Monday and Tuesday at practice because the flu went through our whole team this week," pointed out Celina head coach Brian Stetler. "We were decimated by the flu this week and vurtually had no practices this week with just five girls healthy. There wasn't much preparation.
"Liz Homan, Laura Homan, Cayla Hellwarth and Kelsey Waterman were there and then I had Amy Harner for one day and Laura Link for one day," continued Stetler. "It started for us on Saturday and then by Monday it seemed like we didn't have anyone left. Quite frankly, the way that we played tonight wasn't too bad considering the circumstances."
Celina didn't look like a team suffering from the effects of the flu in the first half marching out to a 28-18 lead at halftime.
The Bulldogs dominated play in the first 16 minutes behind the play of center Liz Homan who scorched the Titans' defense for 14 points. Homan, who stands 6-0, had to work for her points in the early going battling in the post against the Titans' towering duo of Madalyn Shalter (6-2) and Haley Ducey (6-0).
A haftime adjustment paved the way for a big second half for the Titans.
"We went to a triangle-and-two defense in the second half to slow down Homan and (Betsy) Hone," said Smith. "We haven't practiced it much this season but we've used it twice and it has worked pretty well for us. Mandy White did a great job on guarding Homan in the second half and so did Brittany Kiracofe on Hone. I think that if you can frustrate Hone then it frustrates Celina's whole team and that's what we were able to do tonight."
O-G's gimmick defense was effective against Homan and Celina's main ball handler Betsy Hone throughout the second half as the Bulldogs' duo combined for just three points and not even a field-goal attempt by Homan in the second 16 minutes of play.
"They ran a triangle-and-two on us and that gave us a lot of problems getting the ball inside to Liz," said Stetler. "It took us awhile to adjust to it and we went into a drought for awhile. We tried some different people out there to step up and we just need consistency in that area."
O-G knocked seven points off of Celina's lead in the third quarter and took the lead for the first time in the game at the 6:37 mark of the fourth quarter.
Celina did retake the lead at the 3:09 mark of the fourth quarter when Laura Homan hit a three-pointer for a 41-40 Bulldogs advantage. The Bulldogs' last lead came at 43-42 on a pair of free throws by Laura Link.
The Titans grabbed the lead for the last time when Mandy White and Haley Ducey each scored two points to put O-G on top 46-43 with 36.8 seconds left on the clock.
Celina's Cayla Hellwarth brought the Bulldogs to within one point at 46-45 after two free throws before a high-tension ending to the game.
Celina had a chance for the win with 17 seconds left on the clock following a turnover by O-G, but Hone's jump pass was intercepted by the Titans with 10 ticks left on the clock. The Titans then tried to advance the ball up the floor but the Bulldogs knocked the ball away with seven seconds remaining in the game.
By the time that Amy Harner chased down and fought for the loose ball for Celina, the final horn sounded.
"Thank God that time was on our side and we were able to come away with a win tonight," said Smith. "It's always difficult to go on the road and win in the WBL, especially in hostile territory like Celina."
White and Ducey led O-G with 11 points apiece while Brittany Kiracofe added 10 points.
Homan's 14 first-half points led Celina while Link added 11 markers.
Celina is back in action again on Tuesday at Fort Recovery.