RENSSELAER — It took a pair of nip-tuck wins to get Culver Girls Academy into its first basketball regional in 14 years, and it took another down-to-the-wire game to get them out.
CGA opened the 36th annual IHSAA state series with a last-second victory over defending Rochester Sectional champ Plymouth before going on to win the tourney in overtime against the host Zebras, but on Saturday the Lady Eagles’ run came to an end. Griffith sophomore Sammi Adams nailed an NBA-range 3-pointer off the top of the key with 2.5 seconds left in the game, and the defending champion Panthers claimed a 49-46 Rensselaer Central Regional semifinal victory over CGA Saturday.
Griffith ultimately fell to Benton Central 56-42 in the regional final Saturday.
“I thought it was a very hard-fought game by two really good teams,” said Griffith head girls basketball coach Tom Golumbeck. “You’ve got to give Culver credit; they’re a very good team, a lot of quality.
“I thought that was a pretty good shot at the right time, and luckily, it went in for us. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.”
“We couldn’t have asked for a better shot,” said CGA head coach Gary Christlieb. “She’s from about 24, 25 feet out, we rotated, she just happened to hit the shot. It was two evenly-matched teams, we thought that would be the case early. Coming in all week long we felt that we’d be right there at the end, and the kids were.
“It’s just one of those things where today it wasn’t meant to be. They hit the shot and credit them, they’re well-coached, they play hard and they’re deserving. What more can you say? The kids did everything we asked them to; today they were just three points better than us, and that’s really the whole story of the game.”
The game featured six lead changes and three ties. CGA led 46-44 with 1:48 remaining in the game as senior point guard Kylee Shipley drained a pair of free throws following a Kelsey Bonewits foul in the lane, but Bonewits made up for the play just 30 seconds later with a putback to knot the game at 46-all, setting the stage for Adams’ late-game heroics.
“That last play really wasn’t designed for Sammi Adams, but we kind of have a rule like most teams probably do: If you get the ball and the clock’s running down at the end of the game you’ve either got to shoot the ball or get to the basket,” Golumbeck said. “She was very fortunate to get that shot. We wanted to take that shot kind of early because if we missed we thought we’d have a good chance of getting the rebound with both of our 6-footers.”
The Eagles jumped off to the initial lead Saturday with an 11-5 game-opening run, but they couldn’t hold on as Griffith closed out the first quarter 5-2, then outscored CGA 14-9 in the second quarter to take a slim 24-22 advantage at halftime.
Bonewits led the Panthers with 13 points and four steals, while CGA was led by 13 points apiece from Shipley and sophomore forward Andrijana Cvitkovic.
The Eagles finish out their season at 17-7 and say goodbye to four starters in Shipley, Brenna Newell, Alexis Christlieb and Kenzie Ungar, as well as fellow senior Casey Hall.
“You graduate two four-year letterwinners in Kylee Shipley and Alexis Christlieb; both of them are outstanding kids and have contributed immensely to our program,” said CGA’s skipper. “Kylee is leaving our program with over 1,00 points, and Alexis does a lot of the things that people won’t necessarily see in the box score, but I think that those two have really kind of been the hub of the whole process here.
“Kenzie Ungar came in as a junior and really did a nice job with our program... she just had a knack for getting to the ball,” he added. “She’s very steady in her play. Brenna Newell came in late in the year as a freshman and then hurt her back and didn’t play as a sophomore and came back and played significant time as a junior and had a tremendous season this year and was a great cog in what we did — was our third-leading scorer, averaged double figures. I think Casey Hall was just someone who’s been a nice surprise and has worked extremely hard and molded herself into the player she is and has dedicated herself.”
• GRIFFITH 49, CGA 46
At Class 3A
Rensselaer Central Regional
Score by quarters
Griffith: 10 24 42 49
CGA: 13 22 38 46
GRIFFITH (49): Samantha Marker 5, Brooke Brinkley 9, Presley Corich 4, Ashley Parish 4, Kelsey Bonewits 13, Sammi Adams 8, Emma Blackard 3, Taylor Austin 3; Totals: 19 7-13 49.
CULVER ACADEMIES (46): Kylee Shipley 13, Brenna Newell 7, Andrijana Cvitkovic 13, Alexis Christlieb 6, Kenzie Ungar 7, Casey Hall 0 0-0 0; Totals: 15 15-22 46.
3-pointers: Griffith 6 (Blackard 3, Adams, Blackard, Austin); CGA 1 (Shipley); Turnovers: Griffith 12, CGA 12; Rebounds: Griffith 26 (Parish 9), CGA 21 (Cvitkovic 8); Total fouls (fouled out): Griffith 17 (none), CGA 8 (none); Records: Griffith 16-6, CGA17-7 (final).