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Bulldogs wear out Chiefs down the stretch

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Bellefontaine’s Tristin Tillman takes a shot during the first half of Friday’s season-opening game at Celina. (Examiner Photo/Matt Hammond)

By MATT HAMMOND
Examiner Sports Editor
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CELINA — Celina’s relentless full-court pressure defense eventually took a toll on Bellefontaine’s boys basketball team here Friday night.

After a strong showing through three quarters, Bellefontaine wilted against the aggressive Bulldog attack in the final quarter for a 70-57 loss in the season opener.

The Chiefs led by seven points (42-35) midway through the third quarter, but Celina closed the game with a 35-15 run.

“They ran a lot of guys at us and I felt like we got a little fatigued there at the end of the game,” said Bellefontaine head coach Henry Stolly. “We are not in the best condition right now. We were pretty banged up in the preseason and are still trying to get in shape. Their pressure wore us down in the second half.”

With an in-your-face defensive mentality, the Bulldogs take pride in forcing the opponent into mistakes, but Bellefontaine was able to weather the storm early on.

Bellefontaine, which suffered 16 turnovers on the night, fell behind by seven points in the first quarter before closing to within two (19-17) at the end of the period.

The Chiefs moved in front by two points on two different occasions in the second quarter. Bellefontaine had to settle for a tie (29-29) at halftime.

The second half started with promise for the visitors. Led by the play of senior guard Matt Gump and junior guard A.J. Gorham, Bellefontaine opened up a seven-point cushion at the 4:31 mark of the third quarter.

However, Celina answered with an 11-2 spurt to lead by two points (46-44) entering the fourth quarter.

Gorham drilled a three-pointer at the start of the final period to give Bellefontaine a 47-46 lead, but it was all Bulldogs from there.

Celina scored seven straight points to grab control of the game. The Bulldogs put it away with stellar free-throw shooting.

On the night, the Bulldogs hit 29-of-33 foul shots for an 88-percent effort.

“Great teams are normally great free-throw shooters,” said Stolly. “They got a lot of free throws and they had a lot of makes.”

Matt Buschur, a 6-4 senior forward, was a handful for Bellefontaine in the second half. The physical Buschur scored all of his team-high 17 points over the final two quarters. Nine of those points came at the foul line.

“We got out of position at times and they did a good job finding him,” said Stolly. “(Buschur) was a man inside in the second half.”

Gump led Bellefontaine with a game-high 19 points. A.J. Gorham came off the bench to score 13 points and Max Oyer also was in double figures with 13 points.

Jake Kennedy added eight points for Bellefontaine.

Bellefontaine played without sophomore center Caleb Mitchell, who is still recovering from a foot injury that kept him out of the entire football season.

In the junior varsity game, Celina pulled out a 50-43 win in double overtime. Daniel Boy led the Chiefs with 18 points.

Celina won the freshman contest 50-30. Andrew Mitchell scored seven points for Bellefontaine.

The Chiefs return to action Friday at home against Springfield Shawnee.

CELINA 70, BELLEFONTAINE 57

BELLEFONTAINE (0-1)

Gump 4 8-8 19; A. Gorham 4 2-4 13; Oyer 5 0-0 10; Kennedy 3 0-1 8; Tillman 2 0-0 4; L. Mitchell 1 1-2 3. Totals: 19 11-15 57.

CELINA (1-0)

Bader 1 4-4 6; Billger 2 10-10 14; Buschur 4 9-12 17; Hoyng 6 2-2 15; Ross 3 0-4 6; Fickert 4 4-4 12. Totals: 20 29-33 70.

Chiefs    17    12    15       13  —  57

Bulldogs    19    10    17     24    —    70

Three pointers: Bellefontaine 8 (Gump 3, A. Gorham 3, Kennedy 2); Celina 1 (Hoyng). Turnovers: Bellefontaine 16; Celina 10. Team fouls: Bellefontaine 19; Celina 16.