Third-quarter flurry carries Celina past Chiefs

Bellefontaine’s boys basketball team put forth an impressive fourth-quarter comeback in its opener against Celina on Friday, but it was not quite enough to overcome a disastrous end to the third period.

Bellefontaine’s Tristin Tillman drives to the basket during the second half of Friday’s season opener against Celina at Bellefontaine High School. EXAMINER PHOTO | MATT HAMMOND

Leading by three points at the time, the Bulldogs used relentless defensive pressure to fuel a 10-0 run in the final 1:17 of the third quarter to open up a 13-point cushion (46-33).

Bellefontaine fought back to get within a point in the final period. However, the Bulldogs hung on down the stretch for a 54-51 victory.

“I was very proud of our team for not giving up in the fourth quarter,” said BHS head coach Henry Stolly. “Our kids showed a lot of fight by getting back into the game. We just fell a little short at the end.”

Bellefontaine shot a respectable 45 percent from the field and 73 percent at the foul line, but was hurt by 16 turnovers. Five of those came in the last minute of the third quarter as Bellefontaine struggled to get the ball down the court against a swarming Bulldog defense.

“I thought we picked the ball up a little early at times,” said Stolly. “When a team is running a half-court trap and you pick the ball up too early, it can speed you up and make things a little frantic. We didn’t do a real good job of handling their pressure there at the end of the third quarter.”

Celina, which led 29-23 at halftime, was bottled up by the Chieftains in the final quarter. The Bulldogs mustered only one field goal in the fourth period.

That allowed Bellefontaine to get back into the game. A layup by the Chiefs’ Daniel Boy with 1:45 remaining cut the Bulldogs’ lead to one point at 48-47.

Celina was able to push its lead back to four points with 16.5 seconds left. Bellefontaine’s A.J. Gorham then drilled a three-pointer with 6.3 ticks remaining on the clock to get BHS back within a point at 52-51.

Read the full story in Saturday's Examiner.