CULVER — The annual Bell Game between Culver and Argos brought out a crowd, and the Dragons looked up for the rivalry game early.
But while their intensity seemed to flag after the first quarter, the Cavaliers kept pouring it on, ultimately doubling up the visitors in a 46-23 win at home at John R. Nelson Gymnasium Thursday.
“It’s a backyard competition. Our kids really hype it up and talk about how important it is, but like I told them tonight we need to show that by our actions on the floor,” said Argos boys basketball coach Doug Snyder. “Early on they came out and scored eight points, and we talked about “Hey, we’re on the road, that’s okay,” and I thought our team did a nice job composing themselves by the end of the first quarter. But then after that it was hard to find the guys that would work together.”
Culver put the Dragons on their heels early, opening with a quick 8-0 run, but the visitors ran back with seven unanswered points of their own to pull within one at 8-7 at the 2:12 mark of the first quarter. But the Cavs’ physicality on the defensive end combined with some unselfish play on the offensive end to give Argos problems early in the second quarter, however, and a 15-5 Culver tear left Argos trailing 23-12 at the half.
Things went from bad to worse for the Dragons in the second half as Culver used a 12-2 third quarter-opening run to push its advantage out to 21 points by the 4:05 stop of the period and put the game firmly out of reach.
“We did a little bit more man in the second half in the fullcourt. We ran some zone defense in the first half in the fullcourt, did some 1-3-1 and some different things,” said Culver head coach Kyle Elliott. “I thought we allowed them to create a little bit of offense for themselves, gave up some dribble penetration out of it. We talked at the half about how we still wanted to maintain pressure, but do it out of some man-to-man, run-and-jump and some different things. I thought we got them on their heels a little bit. We talked there at the half about how we wanted to really zero in on those first three minutes and take pride in possessions on both ends of the floor.”
Even after Thursday’s loss, Argos still leads the series 24-16, but the Cavaliers have now won three straight coinciding with the first back-to-back-to-back winning seasons in program history.
“It’s just been a great rivalry between the two schools,” said Elliott, who took over as Culver’s all-time winningest coach with a victory at North Judson back on Dec. 27. “Coach Snyder, I’ve known him for years, and his kids play hard. As a player here at the high school I remember our teams competing for the bell. We won it back in ‘83. That kind of dates me a little bit, but Argos had had it for several years with some great runs that they’ve had with some great players in their program. We won it back then and then again in ‘84. I just remember the great moments as a player. Those are the types of things that you try to share with the kids. These are memories for a lifetime. I remember those games like they were yesterday.”
While Culver’s on-the-ball pressure stymied the Dragons’ offense and created 14 turnovers for numerous breakaway opportunities Thursday, the Cavaliers were also effective in the offensive halfcourt, finishing the game at a 16-for-33 clip from the floor.
Trent Elliott scored a game-high 14 points highlighted by an alley oop slam on a backdoor lob from Kyle Vlach with 53 seconds left in the second quarter. Vlach finished with eight points, Micah Budzinski scored seven with nine rebounds, and Collin Stevens finished with five points and five assists as the Cavs recorded 16 helpers for the game.
Freshman Everett Krueger put in a standout performance with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, meanwhile, as Culver relied heavily on its reserves after taking control early in the second half.
“I thought we had multiple kids putting the ball in the hole tonight and making that extra pass. The few times that we maybe didn’t finish a possession I thought we were trying to do the right thing with the ball,” said Kyle Elliott.
“Defensively I thought we were able to force them into some mistakes to create some offense, and when we were in the open floor especially I thought our kids were able to find a teammate and did some nice things with sharing it.”
The Dragons struggled to find big offensive output from any single player, scoring instead by committee as Taylor Ogle finished with five points, Casey Johnson and Brian Snyder each tallied four, and Dominic Cataldo chipped in three points.
Culver improves to 11-6 and is now guaranteed a third-straight winning season with three games remaining until sectional play begins later this month. Argos slides to 4-13, including an 0-8 mark on the road this season.
• CULVER 46, ARGOS 23
Score by quarters
Argos: 7 12 20 23
Culver: 10 23 37 46
ARGOS (23): Taylor Ogle 5, Dominic Cataldo 3, Casey Johnson 4, Derek Smith 0, Max Bailey 3, Brian Snyder 4, Ricky Rice 0, Taylor O’Dell 0, Derek Jensen 0, Jordan Norris 2, Ben Carter 2; Totals: 8 5-7 23.
CULVER (46): Kyle Vlach 8, Everett Krueger 10, Jordan Sanders 0, Collin Stevens 5, Preston Hansel 0, Trent Elliott 14, Chris Zehner 0, Tucker Schultz 2, Micah Budzinski 7, Brad Beaver 0, Brendon Pinder 0, Alex Graham 0; Totals: 16 10-12 16.
3-pointers: Argos 2 (Cataldo, Bailey), Culver 4 (Vlach 2, Stevens, Elliott); Turnovers: Argos 16, Culver 14; Rebounds: Argos 17 (Rice 3, Ogle 3), Culver 26 (Budzinski 9); Steals: Argos 7 (Ogle 2, Norris 2), Culver 12 (Krueger 3, Sanders 3); Assists: Argos 5 (Ogle 2, Snyder 2), Culver 16 (Stevens 5, Sanders 4); Fouls (fouled out): Argos 12 (none), Culver 12 (none).
Records: Culver 11-6, Argos 4-13
JV score: Culver 44 (Preston Hansel 16, Alex Graham 10), Argos 32 (O’Dell 10, Austin Binkman 9).