By Gary R. Rasberry
FORT RECOVERY -- After two rough losses to conference teams last week, Fort Recovery was looking for a game to vent some frustrations and get a boost going into the tournament draw on Sunday and for the last week of the regular season.
The Celina Bulldogs were on the schedule for Tuesday night at the Fort Site Fieldhouse and the Indians came out strong.
The Indians used several big runs in the first half to get the lead and a comfortable margin while dominating all aspects of the game to send the Bulldogs home with a 57-37 loss in a Mercer County battle. The Indians improve to 13-5 on the season as the Bulldogs drop to 7-9.
After the Indians lost at St. John's on Thursday, then dropped an overtime decision to Versailles on Saturday, coach Jeff Roessner was looking for a game to bounce back.
"Absolutely," said Roessner. "I think what you saw on the offensive end, especially in the first half, was some new-found intensity, new-found fire in the belly and the desire to perform." Celina led 6-3 early before a 12-0 run put the Indians in the lead to stay. Holly Stein put the exclamation point on the run, nailing back-to-back buckets within a span of 34 seconds to put the Tribe up 12-6. After Celina's Brian Stetler called timeout, Vicki Roessner nailed a three-pointer 20 seconds after a Bulldog turnover to make it 15-6.
At the end of the first quarter and the start of the second, though, Celina made a run to get back into the game. Betsy Hone found a hot hand, scoring five of the last six points for Celina at the end of the first quarter and adding four more to start the second quarter that made it 23-19 with 5:35 to go after a Liz Homan bucket.
But on the defensive end, Celina left too much of a window open for Stein to shoot. The junior nailed a pair of three-pointers as part of a 10-0 run that made it 33-19 with 3:20 to go in the half and forced the Bulldogs to call a timeout. By the halftime buzzer, Fort Recovery was up 38-23.
In the second half, the Indians kept the pressure on Celina. Hone was held to just five points in the second half and finished with a team-high 18 points. The other two big scorers for Celina, however, were not as effective. Liz Homan, averaging 10.9 points per game, was held to six points before fouling out with 51/2 minutes to go in the game. Laura Link, coming in with a scoring clip of 11 per game, attempted just one shot on the night and missed it while finishing with no points.
"Our kids were quicker to the ball," said coach Roessner, "But I'll tell you what, Betsy Hone is one heckuva player, no mistake about it. She made 3-4 shots tonight where she was defended -- we were there -- and she made the shot anyway. I think you give her a lot of credit for making that shot.
"I think our girls came out with more determination on both ends of the court. I think we boarded better than they did (Fort Recovery won the rebounding battle 38-23). We just wanted to win this game more. I don't know how to say it nice, but to us, it was a must-win game. I don't think they felt that same way."
Stetler didn't pull too many punches about the way his team played.
"Fort Recovery did a whale of a job on the boards," said Stetler. "You have to tip your hat to their play. They were the aggressor.
"I told the girls from the git-go they weren't ready to play, and it showed."
Stein led all players with 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting -- 3-of-6 from the three-point line. Abby Niekamp came off the bench to score 11. Tiff Gaerke was held to just six points shooting, but did her damage on the glass, pulling down 16 rebounds.
"Particularly, the key point was on the boards, controlling the rebounds," pointed out Stetler. "That was the game right there, in my opinion. They get second and third shots (Fort Recovery had 15 offensive rebounds)."
Fort Recovery stays at Fort Site on Thursday to host the New Bremen Cardinals in Midwest Athletic Conference play. Celina is back at the Fieldhouse on Thursday, hosting Defiance in a Western Buckeye League matchup.