ROCHESTER — Plymouth will jump right into the fire as the Class 3A Rochester Sectional opens tonight at 7 p.m.
The three-peat defending champion Lady Pilgrims take on the arguable tournament favorites in Culver Girls Academy, and the Eagles are hoping for revenge after taking a 51-38 loss at the hands of Plymouth at last year’s tilt.
CGA boasts a pair of veteran players in Kylee Shipley and Brenna Newell, who boast respective points-per-game tallies of 12.4 and 12.2, but it’s skilled 6-foot-2 sophomore Andrijiana Cvitkovic — who owns a 14.5-point average — that really has Plymouth head coach Dave Cox concerned, especially with the recent loss of 6-1 Pilgrims forward Marisa Green to an MCL injury.
“I think they’re probably the best team in the sectional. We’ve got them right off the bat, but we like to play the best,” said Cox. “I think the big sophomore, boy, I tell you, she can cause problems. She’s big and she can shoot the ball, and really handle the ball pretty well and is a good passer so we’re going to really have match-up trouble with her. Then you put Shipley in there and she can run the point and score. I just think they have a really nice team.”
Not only do the Eagles boast multiple weapons but they can also hurt teams a number of ways, and they’ll provide a difficult test for the Pilgrims’ famous defense.
“I think that they’re going to try to take it inside on us, but they’ve got some kids that can shoot the ball outside, too, so defensively it’s going to be a tough match-up for us,” said Cox.
One potential weakness for Culver is in ball-handling. The Eagles have sometimes been susceptible to turnovers this season, and the Pilgrims are liable to pressure them in the full court. Cox cautions that could backfire as well, however.
“You’re certainly going to try them out... Of course if they do break it, they’re going to be able to score some easy baskets, so I’m really not sure how much pressure you’re going to be able to do with them,” Cox said.
While the Pilgrims worry about how to stop CGA’s big three from scoring, they’ll also have to put up some points of their own, something they’ve struggled to do at intervals this season, particularly in the home stretch of the regular season as they’ve broken the 40-point barrier just once in the past four games.
“We’ve just got to get some points,” said Cox. “I don’t know how in the devil you do it, but they’ve just got to be able to do it. And the tourney is about, unless you’re just a dominant team... kids just have to — you know the old cliche — kids just have to step up.”
The winner of tonight’s contest will move on to face New Prairie Friday, while John Glenn takes on Marian in the opener tomorrow, prior to the St. Joseph’s-Rochester match-up.