NEW CARLISLE — Few teams can afford to overlook their opponents come tournament time, especially on their home floor.
At 1-19 coming into Tuesday’s Class 3A Sectional 19 opener, host New Prairie looked like a pushover on paper, but the Lady Cougars came ready to play. Fortunately for Culver Girls Academy, so did they.
CGA took control early with a 13-2 game-opening run, and the Lady Eagles never looked back in an eventual 59-49 sectional quarterfinal win.
CGA advances to play Marian in the early semifinal scheduled for 6 p.m. ET Friday night. Sectional 19 action resumes tonight as John Glenn takes on South Bend St. Joseph’s at 6 p.m. ET to be followed by a contest between Jimtown and Plymouth. The winners will face off in the late game Friday following the CGA-Marian semifinal.
“They play a good schedule, and they play hard, and they’re on their home floor, and they hit shots,” said CGA head coach Gary Christlieb of the Cougars. “You don’t take anything for granted in this thing. Whether you look at it on paper, people may say, hey, maybe we should’ve won by a wider margin, but it doesn’t matter. We were in control of the game.
“We got off to a good start. You always want to do that in the tournament; you always worry about that when you’re playing a team on their floor in the tournament.”
The Cougars had no answer for CGA’s frontcourt tandem of Andrijana Cvitkovic and Victoria Christlieb.
Cvitkovic — a 6-3 University of Dayton signee ranked 13th at her position by ESPN Hoopgurlz — finished with a game-high 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the floor while pulling down another game-best 15 rebounds to go with three blocks and three assists, impressive numbers by any measure, especially considering she sat out the last 4:40 of the first half in foul trouble. The 5-11 Christlieb put in another stat sheet-stuffing performance of 17 points with eight rebounds, five assists and three steals as New Prairie struggled to find match-ups for the forward duo.
“Andi played her usual all-around game, and I thought Victoria played a really nice game. Especially early when Andi was out, she kind of carried us, and I thought that was important,” said Christlieb.
Rita Zambon chipped in 11 points — including a buzzer-beating triple from the corner that pushed CGA’s advantage back out to double digits at halftime following a 6-2 New Prairie run — and served up four assists as the Eagles racked up 19 team assists to convert at better than 40 percent from the field (24-of-58).
“We score 59 points on 19 assists,” Christlieb said. “If my math’s correct, that’s 38 points. That’s pretty good offensive balance when you’ve got those kind of assist numbers. We’ve shared the ball well. I think that’s important, and I think that really has kind of been the key, that we’ve got kids that don’t get worked up about it’s an I thing, and they’re willing to make the extra pass.”
New Prairie was led by Jessica Cinal’s 18 points, while Brooke Kresca chipped in eight points with nine rebounds and three assists, and Madison Cody finished with six points and eight rebounds for the Cougars, who bow out at 1-20.
Up next for CGA is Marian, which handed the Eagles a 39-28 loss in Mishawaka on Jan. 23. The winner advances to the Sectional 19 championship slated for 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday.
“We played them two weeks ago, and they beat us,” Christlieb said. “Katie Barnard’s an outstanding player, one of the best players in the area. I think they’ve got a nice backcourt with (Erin) Guzicki, she handles the ball really well. There are no secrets; everybody knows everybody, and the familiarity of who needs to do what, that’s all part of the tournament.”
“It’s going to be one of those good old-fashioned sectional basketball games, kind of a knock-down, drag-out neighborhood brawl,” he added. “I’m sure they’re licking their chops at the chance to play us again.”
CLASS 3A SECTIONAL 19
At New Carlisle
• CULVER GIRLS ACADEMY 59, NEW PRAIRIE 49
Score by quarters
CGA: 17 36 51 59
New Prairie: 6 25 32 49
CGA (59): Alle Baker 4, Saralena Barry 4, Melissa Binford 0, Victoria Christlieb 17, Andrijana Cvitkovic 22, Grace Holzer 1, Jamie Madison 0, Nicole Stephenson 0, Helen Weinberg 0, Rita Zambon 11; Totals: 26 3-6 59.
NEW PRAIRIE (49): Faythe Bashaw 2, Mackenzie Behm-Staveley 0, Ashley Campos 0, Jessica Cinal 18, Madison Cody 6, Madeline Durbin 5, Nicole Hynek 0, Brooke Kresca 8, Olivia Kuczmanski 10; Totals: 22 6-8 49.
3-pointers: CGA 4 (Christlieb 2, Cvitkovic 1, Zambon 1), New Prairie 1 (Durbin); Rebounds: CGA 39 (Cvitkovic 15), New Prairie 41 (Kresca 9); Turnovers: CGA 17, New Prairie 16; Steals: CGA 9 (Christlieb 3), New Prairie 8 (Kuczmanski 2, Saylor 2); Assists: CGA 19 (Christlieb 5), New Prairie 8 (Kresca 3); Fouls (fouled out): CGA 14 (none), New Prairie 10 (none).
Records: CGA 13-8, New Prairie 1-20 (final).