CELINA — Celina had plenty of energy out of the gate.
But it was Bath’s press and running game which over down the stretch.
Bath battled back and pulled away with a 53-40 girls basketball victory Thursday night against Celina at the Celina Fieldhouse.
Bath led by only four, 42-38, with 3:47 to go.
That’s when Bath guard Ja’Dasia Hardison had a steal and a fast-break layup to give Bath a 44-38 lead with 1:35 to go.
Hardison had three steals in the final 1:35 to secure the win. Two steals were converted into layups by Hardison.
The other steal by Hardison ended up being a layup by Chandler Clark.
“I knew we had to make plays,” Hardison said. “They made a mistake and I took it and finished.’’
Hardison sparked Bath on an 11-0 run to pull out to a 53-38 lead with 28 seconds to go.
Madelyn Renner also had three points and two rebounds in the final 1:21.
Bath is 6-7, 3-1 in the Western Buckeye League. Celina is 4-9, 2-2 in the WBL.
Hardison led the Wildkittens with 13 points, seven in the fourth quarter.
Clark had 11 points with one 3-pointer.
Kaleigh Ketcham had nine points with one 3-pointer for Bath.
Ruby Bolon had nine points and four rebounds.
Renner, in her third game back from a broken foot, had eight points and nine rebounds.
Celina was led by Makenna Klingshirn’s nine points and six rebounds.
Maddy Luebke had eight points and five rebounds for Celina. Emma Homan had six points and six rebounds.
Celina used its height to win the boards, 36-22.
Bath used mostly a man press to force 29 Celina turnovers, including 10 in the fourth quarter.
Bath played without starting sophomore guard Abbie Dackin, who suffered a knee injury Wednesday in practice.
“I was really proud of the whole group,” Bath coach Greg Mauk said. “We were playing on tired legs because Abbie is hurt and we had to play extended minutes.’’
Celina led 17-9 after the first quarter and 21-17 at the half.
Celina used an inside-outside game to rip off a 7-0 run in the first quarter to bounce out to a 15-8 lead.
On the inside was 6-foot Luebke, who had six points in the opening quarter. Bailey Exman knocked down a 3-pointer to keep the Wildkittens honest from the outside.
“We haven’t been (starting well) lately, so I told them we need a first half, and we need the first four minutes to be big for us,” Celina coach Cenzie Rushton said. “And they were, but the second half wasn’t. The next big challenge is to put four quarters together.’’
Down 21-17 at the half, the Wildkittens came out with more passion in the third quarter and started the second half with a 14-2 run.
“We came out in the second half and we realized we better be the tougher team because they were the tougher team in the first quarter and in the second quarter for a stretch,” Mauk said. “We came out (in the second half) and got after it, defensively. They had the momentum.’’
Renner keyed the run with two driving layups and a foul shot.
“She helps us a lot,” Mauk said.
That pushed the Bath lead to 31-23 with 3:33 left in the third.
But Celina continued to play a sold man-to-man defense and chipped away at the lead.
Until the final 1:35, Bath’s lead sat at three to five points.
Celina’s Klingshirn hit a 3-pointer to bring the Bulldogs within 42-38 with 3:47 to go.
Celina has taken huge steps forward under first-year coach Rushton, a former standout player at Celina and a second team all-American at Ohio Northern.
Last year Celina finished 2-22, 0-9 in the WBL.
“Cenzie’s (Celina coach Rushton) done a wonderful job,” Mauk said.
Rushton said, “We’re a heck of a lot better, with hustle and our chemistry is getting better. But we have to be able to do it at crunch time.’’
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.