ROCHESTER — The Lady Eagles can breath a sigh of relief.
Culver Girls Academy followed up a down-to-the-wire battle with defending champion Plymouth in the Rochester Sectional opener Tuesday with an overtime victory Saturday, holding the host Lady Zebras scoreless in the extra period for a hard-fought 44-39 championship.
“I’ve probably got a few more grey hairs; there’s no doubt about that,” said CGA head basketball coach Gary Christlieb. “The kids came in and Plymouth was the defending champ, and the kids didn’t think there was a lot of credit given to us and they came in with a chip on their shoulders. We said the basketball gods smiled on them that night, and I think they were doing the same tonight.
“I just think that our kids showed the great moxy that we’re known for. We understand adversity, we’ve dealt with it... They all responded. They got the lead in the last few minutes, and they knew that they had it, and I think we all just felt kind of relieved.”
After leading for three quarters, the Eagles traded leads with Rochester three times and were knotted in two ties with Rochester in the fourth quarter. Reserve forward Victoria Christlieb found Kenzie Ungar under the basket for a layup at the 1:08 mark of the fourth to force the overtime, and 6-foot-2 sophomore Andrijana Cvitkovic broke the tie with a baseline drive and traditional three-point play at the 1:14 stop of the extra period to give the Eagles their final lead of the game.
Cvitkovic survived early foul trouble to score a game-high 18 points with 15 rebounds and blocked five shots for the second straight game to power the Eagles as senior guards Kylee Shipley and Brenna Newell struggled to finish at the game with four and seven points respectively Saturday.
“Going in here we thought our match-up advantage was the interior play,” Christlieb said. “We played them before and we really didn’t do a very good job of getting it into the interior. Then secondly, she (Cvitkovic) had foul trouble and was only limited to 17 minutes. We knew if we could keep her on the floor that was probably the advantage, and the kids knew that. I think late down the stretch they really started to exploit that and look for that.
“Andy did play big. She knew she needed to play big, and she hadn’t been playing really well and she jumped in there and she did a really nice job in looking for opportunities to score.”
Saturday’s win broke a 14-year sectional championship dry spell for CGA. The title represents just the sixth all-time for the program, five of which have come at Rochester.
“The kids are getting accustomed to playing at Rochester. This is four games in a row now, and we’re 4-0. I think it was huge for us to come over here on their Senior Night and play them, and it really gave our kids a sense of familiarity,” said Christlieb. “Someone told our kids that of the five sectionals that we’d won, we’d won four out of the five at Rochester. That gave the kids a little interesting perspective.”
The Zebras were led by Abbie Malchow’s 14 points. Rochester finishes out its season at 14-9.
CGA (16-6) will meet Griffith (15-6) next Saturday in the first game of the Rensselear Regional.
CLASS 3A SECTIONAL 19 CHAMPIONSHIP
CGA 44, ROCHESTER 39 OT
Score by quarters
CGA: 8 17 32 39 44
Rochester: 4 15 29 39 39
CULVER GIRLS ACADEMY (44): Alexis Christlieb 4, Kenzie Ungar 5, Kylee Shipley 4, Brenna Newell 7, Andrijana Cvitkovic 18, Victoria Christlieb 4, Lindsay Haller 2. TOTALS: 17 9-14 44.
ROCHESTER (39): Kirsten Elliott 2, Alanie Sroufe 8, Abbie Malchow 14, Jenna Crispen 2, Kelsi Denney 1, Leighnee Smith 2, Kayla Lindsey 3, Raeann Hunter 7. TOTALS: 10 17-26 39.
3-point goals: CGA 1 (Cvitkovic), Rochester 2 (Malchow, Lindsey); Turnovers: CGA 13, Rochester 13; Rebounds: CGA 34 (Cvitkovic 15), Rochester 44 (Sroufe 11); Assists: CGA 11 (Shipley 6), Rochester 2; Steals: CGA9 (Cvitkovic 2), Rochester 11 (Malchow 3); Fouls (fouled out): CGA 19 (none), Rochester 12 (Lindsey). Records: CGA 16-6, Rochester 14-9 (final).