CULVER — Culver Community’s Kayla Shaffer made the most of her reduced playing time Friday.
Beset by foul trouble throughout the evening, the junior forward still produced a game-high 16 points — six of those during a game-ending 10-0 run — as the Cavs pulled out a 38-29 come-from-behind victory over winless New Prairie in Northern State Conference girls basketball action at John R. Nelson Gymnasium.
“We’ve talked to (Shaffer) about how we’re not the same team when she’s not on the floor,” Culver head coach Gina Hierlmeier said. “We want her to be aggressive, but we want her to be smart about it. Tonight, even with the fourth foul, I thought she played a lot smarter.”
Shaffer kicked off the outcome-deciding 10-0 spurt with a pair of free throws at the 2:59 mark of the fourth quarter to give Culver a 30-29 edge. She followed immediately with an intercepted pass near the timeline and converted her third steal and right-handed breakaway layup of the second half.
“She’s huge,” Hierlmeier said of Shaffer’s defense-into-offense output. “Defensively, she was able to get her hands on some balls and that led to easy baskets.”
Culver sophomore point guard Tatum Schultz chipped in eight points, seven rebounds, a game-leading six steals, and hit classmate Mickella Hardy for a bucket to put the Cavs up 34-29 with 1:21 to play and effectively seal the win.
“Tatum, I give her tons of credit,” Hierlmeier said. “She was in control of the game. She broke down the defense and set up her teammates. She’s been in foul trouble the last couple games, and tonight she stayed on the floor the entire game except when I took her out for a brief rest. With (Shaffer) and Tate on the floor, we’re a much better team.”
Also for the Cavs, Hardy chipped in eight points and a game-high nine rebounds. Her drop step from the right block off a feed from Donna Zehner handed Culver its first lead of the game, 26-25 with 7:28 to play in the fourth quarter.
Despite the strong finish, Culver scuffled out of the gate. New Prairie, playing four out with a baseline runner, raced to a 15-6 lead at the end of the first frame on the strength of a series of backdoor cuts and second-chance opportunities.
Culver, though, surrendered just 14 points over the final three stanzas and held the Cougars to 18 percent from the field and forced 19 turnovers during the same span. For the game, New Prairie coughed up the ball 26 times against Culver’s mix of man-to-man, full-court press, and second-half half-court trap.
“I thought we had a much better second half,” Hierlmeier said. “At halftime I challenged them to make a game of it. I thought they did that. The effort and intensity were definitely there in the second half.
“In the first half, defensively we were trailing cuts and giving (New Prairie) second opportunities,” she added. “When we’re hitting shots we have a chance to switch up defenses, but we weren’t hitting shots. In the second half of the game we hit some shots and we were able to move into different defenses and get them out of the flow of their offense.”
Madison Cody led the Cougars with nine points and three steals. Brooke Kresca added six points, seven rebounds, and four steals for New Prairie.
Culver, which improves to 4-0 in the conference, heads to Triton Friday for a key battle between current NSC unbeatens.
• CULVER COMMUNITY 38,
NEW PRAIRIE 29
Score by quarters
NP: 15 20 25 29
Culver: 6 13 24 38
NEW PRAIRIE (29): Olivia Kuczmanski 0 0-0 0, Jessica Cinal 3 0-2 6, Madison Cody 2 5-6 9, Brooke Kresca 1 4-6 6, Faythe Bashaw 1 0-0 2, Mackenzie Behm-Stavely 2 1-2 6, Ashley Campos 0 0-0 0, Rachel Saylor 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 9 10-16 29.
CULVER (38): Shakkira Harris 1 0-1 2, Ali Overmyer 1 0-0 2, Angela Lewellen 1 0-0 2, Tatum Schultz 2 4-6 8, Mickella Hardy 3 2-6 8, Donna Zehner 0 0-3 0, Kayla Shaffer 4 8-12 16. TOTALS: 12 14-28 38.
3-point goals: New Prairie 1 (Behm-Stavely), Culver none; Turnovers: New Prairie 26, Culver 17; Rebounds: New Prairie 26 (Kresca 7), Culver 27 (Hardy 9); Assists: New Prairie 4, Culver 7; Steals: New Prairie 11 (Kresca 4), Culver 12 (Schultz 6); Fouls (fouled out): New Prairie 19 (none), Culver 15 (none); Records: New Prairie 0-13 (0-3 NSC), Culver 9-4 (4-0 NSC).
JV score: New Prairie 21, Culver 17