CELINA — The Celina boys basketball team hasn’t been to the regional tournament since 1974.
Let that soak in a bit.
So with the Bulldogs off to the Division II regional tournament, they could already have a sense of accomplishment and a job-well-done attitude. Maybe even be in a little bit of awe.
It’s up to coach Chris Bihn and his assistants to make sure the players don’t rest on their accomplishment too much.
“At this point, these kids that we’ve got are very good at taking things one step at a time. They understand that if we overlook anybody, if we’re not focused, that we could lose,” Bihn said.
The Bulldogs face Lorain Clearview at 6:15 p.m. tonight at Bowling Green. The Clippers beat Bay Village Bay 61-29 for their first district title since a Division III district trophy in 1997.
The Clippers are led by Anthony Hitchens, a football signee with the University of Iowa who averages 14.6 points per game and scored 49 points in the two district games. Eric Thompson (6-foot-4) pulls down more than five rebounds per game.
When Celina (15-8) beat Kenton in the district semifinals last week, it was the Bulldogs second district win in 11 years. And when they beat Elida in the finals Saturday, Celina had its first district title in a few generations.
“They are very focused, and they’re doing a good job of maintaining their focus,” Bihn said.
After winning 13 games and a district semifinal game last year, the Bulldogs learned the importance of chemistry and relying upon the senior class, according to Bihn.
Heading up that senior class is first team All-Western Buckeye League pick Darin Waterman. The lanky 6-foot-3 Waterman averaged 17 points in the regular season and put up 48 points in the two district games.
“He’s got long arms. He’s got pretty good reach, so offensively and defensively he uses that to his advantage,” Bihn said. “He causes a lot of havoc at the top of our press. Offensively, even though he has those long arms, he’s very coordinated, handles the ball really well and attacks the rim better than anyone we’ve got.”
A pair of juniors provide support for Waterman. Nate Bihn, the coach’s son, averaged just over nine points during the regular season, and 6-4 John Homan scored 26 points in the district tournament.
Homan also played strong defense against the best players from Kenton and Elida, including WBL player of the year Reggie McAdams.
“He’s kind of the same stature as Darin; he’s got long arms, pretty athletic, very quick, runs the floor well,” Bihn said.
Despite the talent and experience returning from last year’s squad, this foray to the regional wasn’t exactly expected.
“We had the WBL coaches poll out, and they had us picked seventh in the WBL. I would say that we’re probably not expected,” Bihn said. “But I’ll tell you what, when you get this far, who knows.”