CULVER — Culver Community’s girls basketball team found a winning formula Tuesday — defense and timely free throws.
The Cavs limited Class A No. 10 Argos to 26 percent from the field, created 21 turnovers and sank 7-of-8 fourth-quarter attempts from the foul line highlighted by the game-winning pair from sophomore guard Tatum Schultz with 33 seconds left in a 31-29 win at John R. Nelson Gymnasium.
“We’ve struggled from the free-throw line all year,” Culver head coach Gina Hierlmeier said. “We’ve focused on free throws, and I’m confident that we can make them. Donna Zehner hit some major ones, and Tatum hit them when we needed them.
“I’ve always been a defensive coach; the girls are figuring that out,” she added. “Great defense wins ballgames. I set a defensive goal before the game of holding (Argos) to 35 points and we held them to 29. Defense won us the basketball game.”
Culver dodged a couple of bullets in the waning seconds of the game.
Argos missed a potential go-ahead triple with 18 seconds left but gained new life when the ball caromed out of bounds off a Culver set of fingers at the 15-second mark. The Dragons’ final attempt — a well-contested 10-footer from the right side — resulted in a held-ball scramble and Culver possession with 3 seconds to play.
“We wanted to try to get the ball to one of our post players,” Argos head coach Gary Teel said of the inbound play. “If that wasn’t there we were looking for a ball reversal for a shot on the outside. It wasn’t really a set play; we wanted to attack the basket and try to make the game-winning or game-tying shot.”
For the Cavs, sophomore forward Donna Zehner scored all 10 of her game-high total in the second half. After Argos built a four-point edge — its largest of the game — with 4:44 left, Zehner scored on a baseline drive and tied the game at 25-all with a pair of charity tosses at the 3:49 mark.
“I called a timeout when we fell behind,” Hierlmeier said. “We had the same thing in our game against Winamac. I wanted to make sure we kept our heads up. I’m proud of the way we responded and stuck to the game plan.”
“We’re better when (Zehner) is in the game,” she said. “She sat most of the first half with two fouls, and that slowed us down. She opens things up. She’s quicker than most post players but just as physical. She made some huge plays”
Culver junior forward Kayla Shaffer chipped in six points. Schultz provided seven rebounds, three assists and three steals, including a hustle steal and shovel pass from a seated position at the timeline to Angela Lewellen for a breakaway layup and 27-25 edge with 2:29 to go in the final stanza.
Defensively, Culver’s 2-2-1 full-court pressure and half-court man badgered the Dragons’ guards and sealed off the interior. That defense also helped the Cavs overcome a 29-percent showing from the field.
“Our 2-2-1 slowed them down,” Hierlmeier said. “We wanted to force them to the corners, keep them out of the middle, trap, and control the tempo. We wanted to make them play our game rather than us playing theirs.”
Culver’s defense caught the Dragons’ attention.
“(Culver) did a nice job on our guards,” Teel said. “We want to attack and dish and get the ball inside, and they made it difficult. They’re very quick. They have a nice team.”
Senior center Kayla Prochno notched a team-high eight points for Argos — all from the foul line — and pulled down a game-best nine rebounds. Shelby Sanders added six points, including a game-tying trey from the left wing with 40 seconds left in the fourth frame for the Dragons. Senior point guard Jami Patterson chipped in six points and dished out three assists.
Meanwhile, after drilling all six of its first-half free-throw tries, Argos went just 3 of 7 in the fourth quarter.
“That’s uncharacteristic,” Teel said of his team’s fourth-quarter woes from the line. “In a tight game it’s easy to look at free throws, but two points could be turnovers, missed shots, the rebounds we didn’t get in the first half; so many things could make the difference in a two-point game.
“I thought we did a good job adjusting at halftime; the kids did a much better job rebounding in the second half,” he added. “I couldn’t have asked for any more out of our kids in terms of effort. They worked hard. Sometimes things just don’t bounce your way.”
Culver hosts North White Saturday, while Argos heads to Morgan Township next Thursday.
• CULVER COMMUNITY 31,
Score by quarters
Argos: 6 11 17 29
Culver: 10 14 18 31
ARGOS (29): Jami Patterson 1 3-8 6, Karlee Van Der Weele 2 0-0 5, Shelby Sanders 2 0-0 6, Kelsey Kring 0 0-0 0, Amanda Middleton 0 0-0 0, Libby Moyer 1 2-2 4, Kayla Prochno 0 8-10 8; Totals: 6 13-20 29.
CULVER (31): Shakkira Harris 0 0-0 0, Ali Overmyer 1 0-0 3, Angela Lewellen 2 0-0 4, Tatum Schultz 0 4-6 4, Mickella Hardy 2 0-2 4, Donna Zehner 3 4-4 10, Kayla Shaffer 1 4-7 6; Totals: 9 12-19 31.
3-point goals: Argos 3 (Sanders 2, Van Der Weele), Culver 1 (Overmyer); Turnovers: Argos 21, Culver 21; Rebounds: Argos 19 (Prochno 9), Culver 25 (Schultz 7); Assists: Argos 4 (Patterson), Culver 6 (Schultz); Steals: Argos 6 (Van Der Weele, Sanders 2), Culver 9 (Schultz 3); Fouls (fouled out): Argos 16 (none), Culver 16 (Shaffer); Records: Argos 2-2, Culver 4-1.