CULVER — The honors just keep rolling in for Culver Community’s girls basketball team.
Just seven days after seizing the program’s first Bi-County crown since 1995, the Class 2A No. 6 Lady Cavs captured the Northern State Conference championship — also their first in 16 years — with a 45-36 win over visiting LaVille at John R. Nelson Gymnasium Saturday.
And with New Prairie’s 40-38 loss at Bremen Saturday, Culver, riding a 12-game winning streak, claimed the title outright with one game left on the league ledger.
“I think it’s great,” Culver head coach Tony Scheub said of the NSC crown. “These girls have really worked hard and gotten better as a team. This means a lot to the girls, and I’m very happy for them.”
LaVille, though, supplied the Cavs with plenty of nervous moments before Culver’s veteran squad pulled through in crunch time.
Tied at 30-all heading into the fourth quarter, senior guards Alison Zehner and Whitney Sanders hit consecutive triples — Zehner from the right corner and Sanders from the left — to put the Cavs up 41-32 with 2:51 to go in the game.
“LaVille had a good game plan,” Scheub said. “They took away our inside game, and we shot 1,000 3-pointers. We kept telling our guards that we want them to be aggressive, but we wanted them to reverse the ball, maybe get some penetration and take that shot on the way back. We were trigger happy, but we finally did hit some big 3s when we needed them.
“We’ve played six games in 12 days, and it showed a little bit,” he added. “I’m proud of the way they found some extra energy in the third and fourth quarters.”
Even with that late one-two 3-point punch, LaVille head coach Kevin McCullough said his team’s defense executed as designed.
The Lancers played man-to-man with guard Elaine Schmeltz switching off her defensive assignment to deny 6-foot-3 senior Patrice McBee in the high post, and LaVille’s low post defenders clogging up the interior against 6-1 senior center Gwen Zehner.
“It was a good scheme,” McCullough said. “We knew little Zehner would give us trouble from the outside. Culver got some uncontested shots, but we knew they would; we can’t take away everything.
“For us to get stops means getting defensive rebounds, and (Culver) got some offensive rebounds,” he added. “The problem there is the ball comes down to them first, and they were able to put it back, but the girls kept battling. No complaints.”
LaVille’s defense worked for the most part. Gwen Zehner scored a team-high 11 points — nearly six points below her average — and seven of those resulted from offensive rebounds. McBee added nine points and three blocked shots.
However, the Cavs, led by 13 rebounds from Gwen Zehner and 11 from McBee, established a 40-18 advantage on the boards, including two loose-ball offensive rebounds apiece from Alison Zehner and sophomore reserve Kayla Shaffer.
“We got a lot of hustle rebounds from Alison Zehner and Kayla Shaffer,” Scheub said. “With our size we expect to get the rebounds in the lane, but the key is for us to get the hustle rebounds, and we got quite a few.”
For LaVille, Schmeltz scored a game-high 12 points, including back-to-back baskets to give the Lancers a 27-24 lead with 3:21 left in the third stanza.
Jesse Feitz, a 6-0 junior post, ripped down nine caroms, and 5-11 senior forward Kaitlyn Kopetski handed out four assists.
But while the Lancers moved the ball into the post, they finished just 31 percent from the field under pressure from the Culver bigs.
“We took it right to the rack,” McCullough said. “We haven’t seen anybody attack Culver from the post like we did tonight. We got the ball to the rack, but we needed to finish better, although those are big obstacles in there for Culver. We have to get a little better with our techniques inside so we can finish or get to the line.
“We only had 13 turnovers which gave us a chance to win,” he said. “We did everything we needed to do to have a chance to win. Credit goes to the Cavs.”
Culver hosts Glenn Friday. LaVille is at home Wednesday against Mish-awaka.
• CULVER COMMUNITY 45,
Score by quarters
LaVille: 7 19 30 36
Culver: 9 24 30 45
LaVILLE (36): Leigha Manuel 0 0-0 0, Zoe Bulick 1 2-2 4, Elaine Schmeltz 5 2-2 12, Jesse Feitz 2 2-2 6, Kaitlyn Kopetski 2 3-6 7, Lynae Hostrawser 0 0-0 0, Katie Berger 2 0-0 5, Katie Bettcher 1 0-0 2, Hannah Herbster 0 0-0 0, Amanda Carbiener 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 13 9-12 36.
CULVER (45): Nicole Carnegie 2 3-5 7, Patrice McBee 4 1-2 9, Whitney Sanders 2 0-2 5, Alison Zehner 3 0-1 8, Gwen Zehner 5 1-7 11, Kayla Shaffer 2 0-0 5. TOTALS: 18 5-17 45.
3-point goals: LaVille 1 (Berger), Culver 4 (A. Zehner 2, Sanders, Shaffer); Fouls (fouled out): LaVille 17 (none), Culver 14 (none); Records: LaVille 8-10 (3-3 NSC), Culver 19-1 (6-0 NSC).