Connor Holliday faces up for Van Wert in this file photo. Holliday scored seven points in the Cougars’ loss to Celina on Friday night. (TB file photo)
By Sean LaFontaine
Times Bulletin Correspondent
CELINA — The Van Wert Cougars traveled to Celina Friday night to take on the Bulldogs in Western Buckeye League action. Van Wert played the Bulldogs closely in the first half, but Celina used a big third quarter to pull away for a 65-44 victory over the Cougars.
Celina jumped out to an early 11-5 lead in the first quarter when Van Wert went on a run. Matt Bidlack hit a jump shot to close the gap, and then a few possessions later Nathan Stoller hit a three from the corner to pull the Cougars within one.
After a Grant Laffin basket put the Bulldogs up by three, Bidlack responded with a three to tie the game at 13 all. Just before the end of the first, Elijah Wortman got an offensive rebound and a put back to give Van Wert the 15-13 lead after one.
The Bulldogs used a steady second quarter to regain the lead and control of the game.
Celina started the second quarter on a 13-4 run to take a 26-19 lead with just over three minutes to play in the first half. Connor Holiday hit a three to get the Cougars within four, but Sean Krik responded for the Bulldogs with a three of his own. The teams played evenly for the rest of the half, giving Celina a 31-24 advantage at halftime.
The third quarter proved to be the difference in the game.
Celina started off the third quarter with five quick points. Michael Smelser hit a three for the Cougars to pull within nine, 36-27, but that was as close as Van Wert got.
The Bulldogs closed out the third quarter on a 16-3 run to take a commanding 52-30 lead after the third quarter. Celina never allowed Van Wert to gain momentum in the fourth quarter, on their way to a 65-44 victory over the Cougars
The victory keeps Celina tied for the lead in the WBL, while Van Wert falls to 2-4 in the conference and 6-8 overall.
“I thought our effort in the first half was outstanding, and I thought we out-played them in the first half, quite frankly,” said Van Wert coach Mark Bagley. “We had a chance to be in good shape at halftime, but we didn’t finish the way we needed to. The third quarter got away from us and they pounded us on the block in the second half. Give them credit, they were aggressive and made plays. When you’re a good team, make plays and get to the glass, good things happen.”
Bidlack led the way for Van Wert with 16 points on the night. Stoller was the only other Cougar in double digits with 11 points. As a team, the Cougars shot 16-for-38 (42 percent) from the field, including 6-for-14 (42 percent) from three.
Van Wert will have a chance to bounce back Saturday night when the host Lima Senior.
Score by quarters
Van Wert 15 9 6 14- 44
Celina 13 18 21 13- 65
Van Wert (44)
Smelser 3, Smith 0, Henry 0, Stoller 11, Keirns 0, N. Keber 1, Bidlack 16, Holliday 7, Moreland 0, Myers 4, Wortman 2
Moeder 3, Bader 2, Krik 5, Delong 4, Schiavonne 8, Laffin 10, Hoyng 9, Hoyng 9, Ross 15, Williams 0