CULVER — The first game of the season can always be a bit of a shaky affair. Add to that all the hubbub surrounding a pre-game ceremony to honor CGA alum and Indiana Miss Basketball 1990 Patricia Babcock, and Lady Eagles head coach Gary Christlieb was feeling a little nervous about his team’s focus going into its season-opener.
Luckily for Culver Girls Academy, any fears their coach was feeling were quickly put to rest.
The Eagles jumped on Bethany Christian from the tip-off, holding the visiting Bruins scoreless for the first five-plus minutes and running out to a comfortable 23-4 halftime lead. The end result was a 48-18 rout and a 1-0 start to the season at Fleet Gymnasium Friday.
“You look at teams in the NBA when they get their rings in the first game and they get drilled by 20 or 30 because it’s just so out of routine and just so different than what you’re used to,” said Christlieb. “It’s a special night, but it does test the mettle of the kids a little bit and how they were focused. Fortunately for us with four starters back I think they understood and they took control of the night.
“A good start to the season. We won’t be winless, so we’ll just try to get ready for the next game.”
CGA opened the scoring 11 seconds in with a Helen Weinberg putback and never looked back. The Lady Eagles held Bethany to 2-of-17 shooting in the first half — the Bruins didn’t get onto the scoreboard until Laken Richer’s short jumper from the baseline at the 1:55 stop of the first frame — while scoring at an efficient 11-of-21 clip themselves to put the outcome beyond doubt by the intermission.
“We wanted to establish our defense. We thought that was important, and we did a pretty good job with that,” said Christlieb. “And then we wanted to make sure that we had good balance in our offense, and I thought that we got that as well. Several opportunities for kids to score, that was our focus. We thought we struggled last year with scoring, and we saw, I think, a wide array of scoring — we were in the lane, we hit some 3s tonight, we saw some penetration and some kicks.”
The Eagles found balance both on the floor and among their personnel.
Six-two center Andrijana Cvitkovic led all scorers with 17 points to complement eight rebounds and three steals, while CGA sixth-man Alle Baker gave her team a big spark off the bench with 11 points for the night, and Victoria Christlieb chipped in eight points with four assists. All total, seven different Culver players found their way onto the scoresheet as the team subbed early and often in the second half, opening the fourth quarter with only one starter on the floor in point guard Saralena Barry.
The Eagles also used their size advantage to win the battle of the boards by a 10-rebound margin. Eleven of those caroms came on the offensive end, which CGA capitalized on for seven second-chance points.
“We wanted to work on being able to box out, and we wanted to be a little bit better on the offensive backboard, too,” said Christlieb. “I think we did do both of those, but ultimately we’ve still got a long way to go with that. We clearly were the much bigger team in this game and I think that was borne out in the game. They had three guards on the floor and we had a front line of two forwards and a center, and we were able to take advantage of that and take control of the backboard a little bit.”
Bethany was led by Richer’s eight points and six steals. The Bruins slipped to 1-1 with their first loss of the year following a season-opening home win over Jimtown Tuesday.
The Eagles open at 1-0 and will have little time to celebrate as they hit the road for Peru tonight. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
• CULVER GIRLS ACADEMY 48, BETHANY CHRISTIAN 18
Score by quarter
BC: 2 2 8 6 — 18
CGA: 15 8 10 15 — 48
BC (18): Tori Craw 0, Marie Bontrager 0, Lynea Kaethler 0, Mallory Bontrager 0, Jordan Helmuth 4, Laken Richer 8, Catie Kauffman 2, Marisa Marquez 4; Totals: 9 0-2 18.
CGA (48): Victoria Christlieb 8, Andrijana Cvitkovic 17, Saralena Barry 0, Helen Weinberg 2, Rita Zambon 2, Nicole Stephenson 0, Margaret McKinnis 0, Alle Baker 11, Melissa Binford 3, Grace Holzer 5, Jamie Madison 0; Totals: 19 1-2 48.
3-pointers: BC 0, CGA 3 (Cvitkovic, Baker, Binford); Rebounds: BC 24 (Helmuth 5, Hochstetler 4), CGA 34 (Cvitkovic 8, Christlieb 6, Madison 6); Turnovers: BC 20, CGA 22; Assists: BC 3, CGA 11 (Christlieb 4, Zambon 4); Steals: BC 12 (Richer 6), CGA 11 (Cvitkovic 3); Fouls: BC 2, CGA 11.
Records: CGA 1-0, Bethany Christian 1-1.
JV score: CGA 23 (Lizzie Strati 6), BC 8 (Ma. Bontrager 4, Marquez 4).