CELINA — Trailing 49-38 with 2:55 left in the game, only a perfect storm could get Celina a win over Van Wert on Friday night. The Bulldogs got one, taking advantage of the Cougars’ turnovers, missed free throws and missed block-outs to end the game with a 12-0 run, capped by a buzzer-beating put-back for a 50-49 win.
Celina is now 5-15 overall and 3-5 in the Western Buckeye League. Van Wert is 10-9 and 4-4.
The Cougars had bridged the third quarter break with an impressive 11-0 run to take the aforementioned 49-38 lead. Bulldog junior Brett Schwieterman revived Celina’s hopes with a 3-pointer from the left wing, then stole the ball, was fouled, and split two free throws – 49-42, Van Wert, at 2:16.
The ‘Dogs were forced to foul and hope for a slew of missed free throws. They got ‘em. The Cougs missed five freebies in a row, including three front-ends, and also turned the ball over twice. With the Cougars holding onto a 49-48 lead, Celina rebounded a missed Van Wert free throw with 25 seconds left, then missed twice from the field, but rebounded both misses, the second resulting in Kole Murlin’s wide-open put-back at the buzzer to win it.
“We gave up three offensive rebounds,” said Van Wert coach Mark Bagley of the disastrous ending. “They hit a three and two twos and the game winner. They scored seven points on offensive rebounds in the last two minutes. We didn’t box out. We stood there and watched. Obviously, missed free throws compounded it, but we gave up seven points of that 11-point lead on just plain, simple box-outs.”
There were two ties and five lead changes in a frantic first quarter, won by Van Wert 14-10. The second quarter was an offensive exhibition by both teams – high shooting percentages and a lot of 3-pointers – four by Van Wert and three by Celina. The Cougars led by as much as 10 – 27-17 with 2:40 on the clock – but the Bulldogs landed three triples in the last two minutes, and the lead was only 32-26 at the half.
Celina started the third quarter on a 7-0 run to lead 33-32, but Van Wert threes by Jacoby Kelly and LeTrey Williams, along with a Bulldog triple and double, tied it at 38 with 2:51 on the clock. At that point, the visitors seemingly took charge. Nate Place picked off a Celina pass in the backcourt and fed Drew Bagley for a layup. Celina misfired, and Kelly escaped for a layup to make it 42-38 Van Wert, at the break.
The Cougar run continued to start the fourth. Bagley rattled in a straightaway 3-pointer to lead 45-38 at 6:14. Van Wert then played deliberately to hold onto the lead, and it worked for a while. Kelly slashed inside, was fouled, and hit one of two. Bagley muscled in a layup, then swished the and-one for the 49-38 lead.
It was all Bulldogs from then on.
“We finished the half bad, and started the third quarter horribly,” said Coach Bagley. “Got down right away. Finished the third quarter well, then took control of the game. We’re up 11. We’ve got ballhandlers and shooters who can make shots. We didn’t do it.”
Van Wert shot well overall – 51 percent (19 of 37) – and from three – 45 percent (9 of 20). Celina was not quite as good overall – 40 percent (17 of 42) – nor from long range – 37 percent (7 for 19). However, the Bulldogs made up for that on the boards with a 25-18 edge and from the free throw line – 64 percent (9 of 14) to 25 percent (2 of 8). Neither team had a turnover problem overall – Celina 6, Van Wert 7 – although the Cougars had two big ones late in the game.
Kyle Flaute, Schwieterman, and Merlin led the Bulldog scoring with 13, 12, and 9. Bagley and Kelly had 17 and 12 for the Cougars.
“We called this our tournament tonight, because we’re not playing back-to-back nights anymore,” added Coach Bagley. “We failed that first test, the players, the coaches. Fortunately, we get to play again. In the tournament (if we lose a game), we’re done. We’ll find out how mentally tough we are Tuesday at LCC.”
The Van Wert JV (17-2) pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 54-45 win. The Cougars were led in scoring by freshman LeTrey Williams, sophomore Jake Hilleary, and sophomore Clayton Proffitt with 17, 12, and 9. The Bulldogs (7-13), whose entire roster is composed of sophomores, were led by Drake Langenkamp and Josh Kuehne with 12 and 10.