HAMLET — The basketball, not to mention Culver Community’s season, hung seemingly in suspended animation on the rim.
The ball, lofted wide open from the right block by South Central freshman center Riley Popplewell rolled off the front of the iron as regulation expired to extend the game and the Cavs’ season.
In the extra session, Culver sophomore forward Donna Zehner scored five points and swiped a pair of steals as the Cavs eked out a 41-39 overtime victory over the Satellites in the Class A Girls Basketball Sectional 51 opener at Oregon-Davis Tuesday.
The Cavs advance to a Friday semifinal against Triton at 6:30 p.m. Play resumes tonight with host Oregon-Davis taking on Westville at 6:30 p.m.; Argos and Michigan City Marquette follow in the nightcap.
“As a coach that’s definitely a situation where you take a deep breath, especially when you’ve just told them to watch for the screen and roll,” Culver head coach Gina Hierlmeier said of the last play of regulation. “Luckily the shot didn’t go in.”
With the game tied at 35-all, Culver looked set to attempt the final shot of the fourth quarter. However, the Cavs’ Tatum Schultz unleashed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 12 seconds left, and the carom ricocheted out of bounds off Culver’s Mickella Hardy. After a timeout South Central’s Jill Rosenbaum worked the right wing, drew two defenders, and hit Popplewell rolling to the basket without a Culver uniform in the neighborhood.
“(Popplewell’s) going to take it hard, because she’s a competitor, but that’s just one shot of 42 we had in the ballgame,” South Central head coach Rick Budka said. “It just happened to be the last shot. I would have liked to see it fall, but it didn’t.”
In overtime Zehner gave Culver the lead for good, 38-37, with a steal and basket and foul with 2:24 left in the game. She added another bucket off a post feed from Kayla Shaffer to put the Cavs up 41-37.
“(Zehner) made some huge plays for us with layups and a free throw,” Hierlmeier said. “The last few games our post play has been huge. The second half was much better post-wise, at least in terms of being more aggressive.”
The Satellites had one last chance trailing 41-39 in the waning seconds. With the clock winding down, Morgan Wright’s out-of-control runner missed, and Schultz grabbed the rebound as the horn sounded.
Zehner, Shaffer, and sophomore reserve Angela Lewellen, who drilled all three of her 3-point tries, scored nine points apiece for Culver. Schultz added eight points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals for Culver, which shook off a lethargic first half against South Central’s 2-3 zone.
“The whole game it felt like we were battling ourselves,” Hierlmeier said. “We were not ready for the 2-3; we expected the 3-2 we’ve seen them play on film. In the first half we were stagnant offensively and that went to our defense.
“Defensively we talked about beating them to spots,” she added. “In the first half we were trailing cutters and we had problems beating them to spots. We kept letting (Rosenbaum) and Popplewell in front of us. We wanted Rosenbaum shooting from the outside, but we wanted to contest the shots which we didn’t a few times. We did a better job beating them to spots in the second half.”
Rosenbaum piled up 23 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and a pair of blocked shots in a monster effort for South Central.
“Jill had 23 big points,” Budka said. “She’s always great offensively, but I thought her defense was spectacular.”
Defensively, the Satellites’ zone neutralized Culver’s post offense much of the evening and held the Cavs to 27 percent from the field.
“That’s the first time we’ve played a 2-3 this year,” Budka said. “We played Culver the first game of the year and lost by 17 points; their inside and post game was pretty powerful. We went to Culver as a team Friday and watched them and a couple girls said they thought a 2-3 zone would work. They did a fantastic job. We really stymied them.”
CLASS A SECTIONAL 51
• CULVER COMMUNITY 41, SOUTH CENTRAL 39 OT
Score by quarters
South Central: 9 19 26 35 39
Culver: 5 16 28 35 41
SOUTH CENTRAL (39): Morgan Wright 1, Madison Tomblin 4, Taylor Johnson 0, Riley Popplewell 8, Hannah Stolte 3, Hannah Howell 0, Katelyn Tucker 0, Jill Rosenbaum 23; Totals: 13 11-14 39.
CULVER (41): Shakkira Harris 0, Ali Overmyer 0, Angela Lewellen 9, Tatum Schultz 8, Mickella Hardy 6, Donna Zehner 9, Kayla Shaffer 9; Totals: 15 7-9 41.
3-point goals: South Central 2 (Rosenbaum), Culver 4 (Lewellen 3, Schultz); Rebounds: South Central 30 (Rosenbaum 11), Culver 31 (Schultz 7); Assists: South Central 6, Culver 10 (Schultz 5); Steals: South Central 8 (Rosenbaum 5), Culver 10 (Schultz, Zehner 4); Fouls (fouled out): South Central 12 (Tomblin), Culver 12 (none).
Records: South Central 12-8 (final), Culver 12-9.