(7-6-17) Celina’s only team State Championship came when the Girls Basketball team won the 1991 DI State title. The Bulldogs came off a16-4 regular season and a Western Buckeye League title going 9-0.
Two Bulldogs would be named 1st Team All WBL, Carey Poor and Carrie Rafferty, Jill Froning and Kristine Opperman picked up Special Mention Honors and Shannon Duffy was named to the Honorable Mention list.
Fresh in Coach Jack Clouse’s memory was a heartbreaking loss 63-57 in OT in 1988 to Akron Hoban in the DII State semifinal game. So 1991 would heal some of those memories with an exciting tournament run.
The Bulldogs would win the Sectional with wins over Wapakoneta and Lima Senior. In Districts they would get their first scare of the tournament, after beating Ashland in the semifinal, the Bulldogs would hang on against Mansfield Senior in OT thanks to a Carey Poor put-back to send Celina on to Bellefontaine and the Regionals.
Celina came into the Regionals as unranked under(Bull)dogs. The Dogs would upend a favored Reynoldsburg in the semifinal game and a chance to play #1 State ranked (#5 USA Today) and undefeated Pickerington for a trip to the State DI Final Four.
The rest is Celina girls basketball history, in a game that the Bulldogs would lead most of the way, Pickerington would come back to take the lead with just :4 seconds left in the game.
The 48-46 win over Pickerington still is remembered by many Bulldog fans to this day. Its a win that was the highlight of the tournament run.
Jill (Froning) Ballard recently told Century 21 Master Key Realty in a ‘Community Capture’ –
“Every time someone realizes who I am, people still talk about ‘the shot.’ Being the only team to win a state title from Celina hit home more when I got older, then when I was actually a Senior (1991). In High School it was cool, in college you try and separate yourself from who you were, but when you get older you realize that was quite an accomplishment. You appreciate it more.”
Froning led the Bulldogs with 18 points, including ‘the shot’. Carey Poor had 10 points, despite some early foul problems.
At the State Finals in the semifinal game at St. John’s Arena, Celina would start out slowly against Beavercreek falling behind by double figures before coming back in the 2nd half to pick up a 46-39 win. Next up in the title game, Celina would hang on to beat the all-girls school Rocky River Magnificat 53-50. Junior Carey Poor led the way with 17 points, Sophomore Kristine Opperman and Senior Carrie Rafferty both had 11 points.
It was a ‘Cinderella’ season that ended with a storybook finish for Head Coach Jack Clouse and his two assistants Bruce Boley and Kelly Jay.
Carey Poor would go on to play for Notre Dame, where she would become the team Captain and have a very successful career, Jill Froning would move on to Ohio Northern, Carrie Rafferty would play at Findlay, Kristine Opperman went on to start at Toledo and Kelly Penhorwood (who a Freshman starter on the State team) would play at Northern Kentucky.
One key player, whose major knee injuries didn’t allow her to play on that team was Senior Kelly Schoenleben. The guard had DI offers including Eastern Michigan, but she was still an important key to the success of this team by being a good teammate.
It was a special group.
The first Celina girls basketball team to make it to the State Final Four in 1988.