CULVER — Culver Community’s Collin Stevens made a habit of putting himself in the right place at the right time Tuesday.
The senior point guard’s crucial steal and game-icing assist, along with his 17 points, allowed the Cavs to turn back a furious Argos rally and escape with a 58-54 win in the Class A Boys Basketball Sectional 51 opener at John R. Nelson Gymnasium.
Culver advances to a 6:30 p.m. Friday semifinal against five-time defending sectional champion Triton. Competition resumes tonight with Westville and South Central facing off at 6:30 p.m., with Oregon-Davis and Michigan City Marquette to follow.
“We survived, and that’s the important thing this time of year,” Culver head coach Kyle Elliott said. “All the kids contributed, we just weren’t consistent enough to put it away. The good thing is that the kids found a way to win. Collin shot the ball well. He shot with confidence and hit some big shots.”
With the clock inside of 10 seconds and Argos trailing 56-54, junior point guard Taylor Ogle’s left-handed dribble at the top of the 3-point arc caromed wide out of his usually steady command. Stevens tracked down the ball and dished ahead to freshman Everett Krueger for a basket and foul to seal the game with 4 seconds to play.
“We were running a weave, and we wanted to look to penetrate and kick to an open man on the perimeter; we’d had a lot of success doing that,” Argos head coach Doug Snyder said. “It was a little tougher because (starting guard) Dominic (Cataldo) had fouled out, but we felt we had five guys on the floor who could score. We just lost control of the ball. (Ogle) played a great game. I don’t fault him for anything. The ball just bounced funny.
“We had one timeout left — a 30-second timeout — and I told Taylor at the previous timeout if he got in trouble to use it, but as far as the last play, I felt like we should just go with it,” he continued. “I didn’t want to call a timeout and have (Culver) change up defenses; we wanted them in man. We haven’t done well this year in situations where we take a timeout to set up a play at the end of the game.”
Krueger also figured prominently in the final go-ahead play, connecting with a cutting Trent Elliott on the baseline. Elliott drew an Argos foul and sank both charity tosses to put the Cavs up 56-54 with 18 ticks on the clock.
“Everett Krueger made an excellent pass to Trent on a cut with the game tied,” the Culver boss said. “Then Collin Stevens had a big steal and led Everett to the basket. Those are the types of plays for a freshman to make late in the game that you have to like.
“We did step up and hit some free throws late in the game,” he added. “Collin Stevens and Trent Elliott are our two best free-throw shooters, and we got the ball in their hands down the stretch.”
Argos, though, put on quite a fourth-quarter display. Trailing 39-26 heading into the final frame, the Dragons caught fire from the perimeter with Ogle, who scored 16 points in the final 5:41, Casey Johnson, and Brian Snyder draining triples in consecutive possessions.
Meanwhile, Culver deviated from the inside-outside game that staked it to a double-digit lead in the first place.
“Two things happened,” Kyle Elliott said. “We were very passive offensively in the fourth quarter, and second, defensively we started to reach and slap. We stopped the clock, put (Argos) at the line, and that extended the game for them. Credit Argos; they didn’t fold when they got down.
“In the second half they were trapping us and we got doubled up inside,” he added. “We were very passive and stayed more on the perimeter instead of playing high-low. Credit Argos. They spread us out and forced our kids to make bad decisions.”
Ogle’s second trey of the quarter — a pull-up jumper from two steps right of the top of the key — knotted the game at 52-all with 55 seconds to go. Ogle, who finished with 23 points, seven rebounds, and six assists — all game-highs — again tied the score with 36 seconds to play at 54-54.
“We hit three 3s in a row and that brought us back,” the Argos skipper said. “We were aggressive with our offense. Once we knocked down some shots our defensive intensity picked up. I was very pleased with both ends of the floor. We got down 12, and the kids decided they were not done yet. That shows a little bit of character.”
Trent Elliott finished with a team-best 19 points and seven rebounds for Culver. Stevens added 17 points, four assists and four steals. Stevens’ 3-for-3 mark from 3-point range forced the smaller Dragons, contending with 6-foot-6 Culver center Micah Budzinski, the 6-4 Elliott, and 6-4 Jacoda Anderson, to step out a bit defensively.
“Stevens, I think, was one of the biggest keys in the game,” Doug Snyder said. “We knew he was capable, and there was already one kid we wanted to not help off, but Stevens looked awful comfortable shooting the ball. He was very big.”
For the Dragons, Johnson and Ricky Rice chipped in eight points apiece.
Argos closes out its season at 5-16 and graduates Rice, Alex Blum, and Derek Smith.
“I look at Alex Blum with a pacemaker, and he’d play his minute or two a game and score four or five points,” the Argos head coach said. “He’s a great kid with good character. I can think of three games that he scored a basket to tie or give us the lead. He has those memories now, and so do his teammates. He was good for our team. Ricky Rice didn’t play last year, but he came back this year and it was great to have him back. He pushed others to play harder. Derek Smith is another who was gone and came back for his senior year. He did a nice job and was a good teammate, like all the seniors. They all did a great job this year.”
• CLASS A SECTIONAL 51
CULVER COMMUNITY 58,
Score by quarters
Culver: 10 24 39 58
Argos: 10 18 26 54
CULVER (58): Kyle Vlach 2, Everett Krueger 2, Jordan Sanders 0, Collin Stevens 17, Trent Elliott 19, Jacoda Anderson 7, Tucker Schultz 4, Micah Budzinski 7; Totals: 18 17-23 58.
ARGOS (54): Taylor Ogle 23, Dominic Cataldo 7, Casey Johnson 8, Max Bailey 3, Brian Snyder 5, Ricky Rice 8, Jordan Norris 0, Ben Carter 0; Totals: 17 13-17 54.
3-point goals: Culver 5 (Stevens 3, Elliott 2), Argos 7 (Ogle 2, Johnson 2, Bailey, Cataldo, Snyder); Turnovers: Culver 10, Argos 7; Rebounds: Culver 19 (Elliott 7), Argos 20 (Ogle 7); Assists: Culver 10 (Stevens 4), Argos 11 (Ogle 6); Steals: Culver 5 (Stevens 4), Argos 4 (Cataldo 2); Fouls (fouled out): Culver 17 (none), Argos 22 (Cataldo).
Records: Culver 13-8, Argos 5-16 (final).