CULVER — An interesting fact about Culver Military Academy — the Eagles have never won a sectional.
In 36 tries since joining the IHSAA State Basketball Tournament in 1974, they've never once hoisted the trophy despite drawing from an international talent pool that has included some of the most gifted players to grace northern Indiana hardwood. Not in 24 years at Plymouth, not in six years at Warsaw, nor in five at North Judson, nor one at South Bend Washington.
CMA (13-6) will try to buck history when it takes the floor at the Class 3A Plymouth Sectional next week against the winner of the tourney opener between John Glenn and Mishawaka Marian.
"You talk about hopefully starting a legacy. You've got two teams that have traditionally dominated that sectional in Plymouth and Rochester, and we've got a great opportunity to go over there and take it one game at a time," said first-year CMA head coach Mark Galloway. "Hopefully the seniors want to leave their mark on this program. We've talked about that from day one of our conditioning. As seniors, what have you really done? You don't play in a conference so you don't have a conference championship and you're judged — whether it's right or wrong — by your tournament success. That's what we're preparing for and we are excited to be playing our best basketball here headed into March."
The Eagles will get a head start at the tourney after drawing the only bye in the seven-team Sectional 19 field.
"That's the way I've always done it is you prepare for every team in your sectional not knowing exactly who you're going to play, but the obvious two we've got to focus in on right away are Glenn and Mishawaka Marian," said Galloway. "Any time you've got the bye and you've only got to win two as opposed to three I think you've got to be excited about that. Just playing the numbers game it is better to only have to win two. We've got to focus on winning that first one and then you're in the championship. We've had the bye the last two years and then gotten beaten in the bye game. The exciting thing about our team is we've got experience and we've been there in that bye game with Chier (Ajou) and Juwan (Brescacin) being seniors and then Jermaine Myers being a junior who's played a lot of varsity minutes, so those three are experienced and excited about the draw."
With Myers and Brescacin averaging better than 19 and 15 points per game this season and the 7-foot-1 Ajou creating all kinds of match-up problems in the paint, the Eagles — who average 56 points an outing — should have no problem putting the ball in the basket. But it's defense that wins championships, and the real test for CMA will come on the defensive end of the floor.
"The key is we just have to keep getting better defensively, and I think our team defense is getting better," Galloway said. "I'm not real concerned normally with us finding ways to score. We're going to find ways to score points, we've got to find ways to get stops and be able to do that consistently, and I don't think it's so much our guards or bigs, it's being able to contain and keep people out of the lane and our post players being able to defend the lane and the interior and being able to rebound and dominate on the glass."