CELINA – Bath fired out a signal Friday night to the rest of the Western Buckeye League.
The Wildcats let it be known that they are still a major factor in the WBL.
Bath used its pressure defense in the final quarter to help pull away with a 63-54 boys basketball victory over Celina.
Bath’s Taren Sullivan had a complete game, with 23 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. He also had three blocks. Colin Gossard added 23 points and nine rebounds.
Bath reached the regional finals last year, it’s first regional trip ever, but the Wildcats lost three starters from a year ago. The question was how good could they be?
“It definitely motivated us when people doubted us,” Sullivan said.
Bath stands 3-1, 1-0 in the WBL. Celina is 2-1, 0-1 in the WBL.
“We’re playing a similar style to last year even though we lost three guys who were really good at playing that style,” Bath coach Doug Davis said. “We’re a longer team than last year and we’re able to get our hands on more balls that way (on defense).
“This was a huge game. To come here and get the win, the word is going to get out here tonight. Maybe teams that didn’t expect us to be as good as we are, will find out here tonight.”
Celina was led by Ryan Hoyng, who tossed in 17 points.
The key for the Wildcats was their defense in the final quarter. Bath switched from a halfcourt man-to-man to a fullcourt man-to-man press for the final period.
The result was Celina turned the ball over 11 times in the final quarter to give the Bulldogs 21 turnovers for the game.
“That’s (the man press) our primary defense for trapping,” Davis said. “We want to try to pressure the dribbler, make them turn their back, then we go and trap. Late in the game, we wanted to go trap (and double team) Hoyng. We thought if we got the ball out of his hands, we had a lot better chance. We felt a lot more comfortable when the ball was not in his hands.”
Bath shot 51 percent from the field and was 5 of 17 on 3-pointers. Celina shot 48 percent from the field and was 3 of 15 on threes. Celina won the boards, 28-27.
The game was close the whole way, with Bath leading 16-15 after the first quarter and Celina leading 29-28 at the half.
Entering the fourth quarter, Celina led 48-46 when Bath went to its man press.
Celina took a 50-46 lead before Sullivan and Gossard hit back-to-back 3-pointers. That pulled Bath out to a 52-50 lead.
Bath took the lead to stay 53-52 on a free throw by Andrew Renner with 3:53 to go.
The University of Findlay-bound Sullivan sank another 3-pointer and the Bath lead was 56-5- with 3:33 left. Sullivan was all over the court, coming up with blocks and steals, as well.
“He can play defense. He has that long reach, which really helps him,” Davis said. “And he’s a good rebounder. … We talked about how big this game was and how we needed him to play well in big games.”
Sullivan scored 10 points in the final quarter. He put a huge exclamation point on the win when he came up with a steal, went end-to-end and threw down a one-handed slam to make it 63-54.
“As soon as I stole it, I got it in my head that I wasn’t going to let anyone stop me,” Sullivan said.