Thursday, March 18th, 2010
Former Bulldogs revisit 1973-74
By Ryan Hines
The glory days for the Celina boy's basketball program came in the early 1970s when the Bulldogs went to the regional tournament three times in a four-year span, and made the school's only state tournament appearance.
Celina was the regional runner-up in 1970-71, won the regional in 1971-72 and then lost in the regional semifinals during the 1973-74 campaign.
There have been no regional appearances for Celina in the 36 years since the 1973-74 season until the Bulldogs ended that drought this year.
Celina knocking off Elida by one point in dramatic fashion last Saturday gave the Green and White a berth in the regional tournament and a matchup against Lorain Clearview tonight at Bowling Green State University at 6:15 p.m.
The Bulldogs' success this season helped bring back some special memories from the 1973-74 Celina boys basketball team.
Current Celina Athletic Director Bruce Boley has had a close eye in watching the Bulldogs have success this season and was a key contributor on the 1973-74 squad.
"As a Celina graduate that played basketball and as the current AD, it's nice to see the success that they are having this year," said Boley, who was a double-digit scorer and leading rebounder for the Bulldogs 36 years ago.
Kurt VanderHorst, who was the leading scorer for Celina in 1973-74, has enjoyed following this year's team.
"The thing that stands out in my mind about this year's team is that they play hard and they play together as a team," said VanderHorst, who attends the Bulldogs' home games and some of the closer road games. "Watching them have success and advance to this part of the tournament has been a joy to watch and it has brought back a lot of good memories from when I was in high school."
There are loads of good memories from the 1973-74 season for Bulldog fans, when Celina went 21-3 and captured the Western Buckeye League title for a fourth straight season.
"It may have been 36 years ago, but to me, it's like it happened yesterday. I just feel older now," said VanderHorst, who went on to play college basketball for Calvin College after graduating from Celina. "It was fun to be part of such a close-knit team."
The Celina 1973-74 team was well known for being an unselfish team that stressed playing as a team.
"We were a very balanced team that played hard and played together," said Boley, who went on to play baseball at Bowling Green in college after graduating from Celina. "We had a lot of fun that year. We were a fundamental team that was well-coached....Nothing flashy, just go out and get the job done."
The Bulldogs got the job done alright, and most of the time it was in impressive fashion as they averaged 78 points per game with an up-tempo style of basketball.
After wrapping up the regular season with a 16-2 mark, Celina's tournament trail wasn't an easy one with the likes of Marion Harding, Bowling Green, Lima Senior, Mansfield Sr. and Findlay standing in the way.
The Findlay game in the district final at BGSU's Anderson Arena, was a contest that VanderHorst remembers distinctly.
"Their (Findlay) coach came out and said that the top teams in the WBL would finish in the middle of their league, and it was written as well by a sportswriter from there, and that helped add a little fuel to that matchup," said VanderHorst. "After we won that game I remember coach (Dean) White clutching the trophy with both hands and being so proud of us all for winning that game. He was the one who told us of the Findlay comments and I think it brought him a lot of pride in winning that game."
"The thing that sticks out to me during that season is when the Findlay coach came out in the paper and was downing the WBL," said White. "I remember that win being very special for us."
VanderHorst and Boley had nothing but kind words for coach White, who announced during the season that it was going to be his last guiding the Bulldogs' program.
"Coach White has a special place in everyone's heart that played for him or came into contact with him," said VanderHorst. "He was a special person and a special coach that was respected on the court and off the court."
"I thought that the success we had that year was extra special because we wanted to send coach White out a winner," said Boley. "He meant so much to Celina basketball. He would do anything for his players and the players would have done anything for him."
White said it was easy to know that it was time to retire from coaching after the 1973-74 season.
"I remember yelling once at the kids, and I had never yelled at the kids before, so I knew then it was time to get out," said White. "That was a special season because it was a team that played as a team and wanted to win as a team. Very balanced team that was focused on doing whatever it took to win."
The 1973-74 season for Celina came to a crashing halt in the regional semifinals when the Bulldogs lost to Mount Vernon by one point.
"We had a nine-point lead on them in the first quarter, but we didn't handle their pressure very well and it slowed the game down," said VanderHorst. "We made a nice comeback after we got down, but we just didn't have enough time to finish in front. Disappointing loss to a great season."
While White hasn't been able to attend any Celina games this year because of health concerns, he has still followed the success of the current Bulldogs.
"I have seen them on television once and I listen to them on the radio and try and follow them through the paper," said White, who still is the winningest coach in Celina boys basketball history with 147 wins. "I've been away from the game too long to be giving any pointers, but I know that they play as a team and I want to wish them good luck. They are playing as a team here (Celina) for the first time in a while and that's why they are winning.
With a win tonight against Lorain Clearview, Celina can eclipse the accomplishments of the 1973-74 team, but that doesn't both VanderHorst.
"It's just such a neat thing for them to be this far in the tournament and I know that the whole community is excited for them, just as they were when we made it that far," said VanderHorst, who will be rooting the Bulldogs on at BGSU. "We had a great season 36 years ago and I hope that this year's team can continue to represent Celina in a favorable way."
Just like the Bulldogs' team did in 1973-74.