MOROCCO — After three brutal offensive quarters in Friday’s Sectional 34 semifinal, the Culver girls basketball team responded when it mattered most.
Tied with Class 2A No. 5 Boone Grove with four minutes remaining, No. 6 Culver finished the game with a 12-5 spurt for a 41-34 win to reach Saturday’s title game against Winamac.
After shooting 15 percent leading up to the fourth quarter, Culver (22-1) forced its will on Boone Grove (20-2) down the stretch.
“We didn’t change anything, we just executed better,” Culver head coach Tony Scheub said. “We were a little robotic early on and then Patrice (McBee) started finding open spots and we hit her. When she dives into the lane, she’s hard to stop.”
McBee had 16 points and 11 rebounds while Gwen Zehner had 14 points and 14 rebounds. The senior duo was unstoppable late, especially on the glass.
“It’s been like that all year long,” Scheub said. “We don’t hide what we’re trying to do. We’re going to pound it in the post every time and dominate the paint. They’ve done a great job all season as have our guards setting them up.”
With the loss, Boone Grove has gone 42-4 the last two seasons but has left its sectional empty-handed.
“I was very proud of my girls and this was an outstanding basketball game,” Boone Grove coach Candy Wilson said. “It came down to the end and they just hit more shots than we did.”
Culver couldn’t have played much worse offensively in the first quarter, as the Cavaliers shot 1 of 13 from the field. At 3-of-10, Boone Grove wasn’t much better, and five turnovers kept it close as Culver trailed 7-4 at period’s end.
For Boone Grove, the first quarter was a missed opportunity.
“Usually we get a lot of offense off our defense, but we had to switch up what we normally do to do something against (McBee and Zehner),” Wilson said. “I think that took us out of the rhythm we’re usually in.”
Culver finished 3 of 24 from the floor for the first half but hit 8 of 8 at the free throw line to take a 14-13 halftime lead. The teams combined to shoot 7 of 42 for the half.
“We were doing everything we wanted to do, and we went into the locker room and I was happy,” Scheub said. “I know we were up one and didn’t score many points, but our defense was great and we were getting open shots. We just weren’t knocking them down.”
The teams struggled again in the third quarter, shooting 5 of 27. Boone Grove took a 21-16 lead before McBee scored the last four points of the period to cut Culver’s deficit to one with a quarter to play.
Culver’s offense finally got on track in the fourth. Tied at 29-29, Culver dominated the final four minutes while going 10 of 12 at the foul line. The Cavaliers went 21 of 24 at the line for the game, with Zehner going 10 of 11.
After McBee and Zehner, Whitney Sanders had five points and was the only Culver player with more than two. Emily Bobrowski led Boone Grove with 14 points, followed by Brittany Shaffer with 11.
Saturday night, Culver has a chance to deliver the program’s second sectional crown since 1980, it’s first since 2002.
“It would be great,” Scheub said. “We’re trying to start something here and carry it on year by year, not just every once in awhile. The girls have bought into that, and they want it bad. We won the Bi-County championship, the Northern State Conference and now they want that third goal.”
Class 2A Sectional 34 semifinals
• CULVER 41,
BOONE GROVE 34
At North Newton High School, Morocco
Score by quarters
Boone Grove: 7 6 7 14 — 34
Culver: 4 10 7 20 — 41
BOONE GROVE (34): Kayla Mastey 0 0-0 0, Brittany Shaffer 4 2-3 11, Brittany DeWell 1 0-0 2, Jordan Chester 0 0-0 0, Emily Bobrowski 3 5-8 14, Paige Aguilera 0 0-0 0, Morgan Marshall 0 0-0 0, Brittany Slicker 3 0-1 7, Nicole Malouhos 0 0-0 0, Claudia Cooper 0 0-0 0. Totals: 11 7-12 34.
CULVER (41): Nicole Carnegie 1 0-0 2, Patrice McBee 6 4-5 16, Whitney Sanders 1 3-4 5, Alison Zehner 0 2-2 2, Kayla Shaffer 0 2-2 2, Gwen Zehner 2 10-11 14. Totals: 10 21-24 41.
3-point goals: Boone Grove 5 (Bobrowski 3), Culver 0; Turnovers: Boone Grove 15, Culver 14; Rebounds: Boone Grove 30 (Cooper 9), Culver 33 (Zehner 14); Fouls: Boone Grove 20, Culver 15; Records: Boone Grove 20-2 (final), Culver 22-1.