LIMA — It was a game of wills and in the end Lima Senior was able to impose its will on Celina on Friday night in the Spartans’ home opener.
Lima Senior was able to force the Bulldogs into a much faster tempo than Celina wanted to play and the result was an 81-70 Spartans’ victory.
Coming off of a 3-18 season, the Spartans are on a three-game winning streak to begin the young season.
“We only won three games last year,” Spartans coach Shawn Allen said. “We just won three games in a week so I’m pretty happy.”
The Spartans (3-1) displayed depth and scoring balance to go along with a solid defensive pressure that led to the win.
Four players got into double figure scoring for Lima Senior for the second night in a row. De’Jorr Gibson paced the Spartans with 18 points while Devon Allen tallied 17, freshman Ruben Flowers had 11, and Isiah Simpson chipped in with 10.
Celina would try to play both man-to-man and a 1-2-2 zone defense but the Spartans’ quickness allowed them to keep the Bulldogs from getting enough stops
Lima Senior led 22-20 after the first period before Celina grabbed a 40-35 lead late in the second quarter. But the Spartans answered with a 3-pointer from Damariante Dillingham, followed by a bucket from Malik Bingmon that sent the teams to the halftime break tied at 40.
“We got it back to even at the half and that was big,” Allen said. “In the second half we were able to keep them from getting it into their bigs on the block.”
The Spartans’ pressure began to pay dividends in the third period as they forced eight Bulldog turnovers and grabbed a 61-54 lead entering the final period of play.
Those eight turnovers turned into breakaway lay-ups for Lima Senior as the team connected on 9-of-14 two-point shots in the quarter.
“We are starting to understand that we can get to you sooner or later when we play at this (up) tempo,” Allen said. “It was a great game on the second night of the weekend, the kids bounced back for our home opener.”
Lima Senior forced Celina (1-2) into seven more turnovers in the fourth quarter and was able to hold on for the win.
“We had two stretches with turnover problems and they went on runs both times,” Celina coach Chris Bihn said. “We got down and quit going inside. We might have hurried some second half shots. Missed layups and turnovers will kill you, those little things add up.”
The Spartans ended the night hitting 50 percent from the field as they connected on 34-of-68 from the field, including 17-of-26 two-point efforts in the second half.
Lima Senior committed only 10 turnovers while forcing the Bulldogs into 24 for the night.
Celina got a game-high 23-point effort from 6-foot-4 Matt Buschur while Ryan Hoyng added 14 and Braelen Billger finished with 13 for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs shot 57 percent from the floor, hitting 25-of-44 from the field but those 24 turnovers were too many to overcome.