LAKEVILLE — It hadn’t even been a week since the Oregon-Davis got star player Jesse Avarone back.
When the sophomore combo player went down again with an ankle injury early in the third quarter Monday, the Class A No. 6 Lady Cats rallied around her, unseating defending champion Culver 49-36 to retake the Bi-County title Monday at Dale E. Cox Gymnasium at LaVille.
“I think they understood the sense of urgency, and I think when Jesse went down they just rallied around that too,” said OD Head Coach Terry Minix. “When your best player goes down, the rest of them know they’ve got to step up, and I thought they did tonight. They only scored seven points in the second half, so it was all about the defense.”
Avarone — who returned to full strength in her team’s Bi-County opener against New Prairie last Wednesday after a jammed finger sidelined her in two prior games — put up 10 points in the first half Monday as Culver used a 17-8 second quarter to take a slim 25-24 lead into halftime.
Avarone left the game with an ankle injury within the first 20 seconds of the third quarter, and Culver opened the frame 4-0 with a jumper and an assist by point guard Tatum Schultz to grab a 29-24 lead over the Cats.
But the Cavs never scored again in the frame as OD held them silent for nearly 10 minutes until a Schultz layup at the 5:37 mark of the final frame snapped a 9:52, 23-0 run that gave the Cats a comfortable 47-29 lead.
Culver surrendered 20 turnovers — en route to 33 for the night — against OD’s defensive pressure while hitting just 5 of 16 shots from the floor in the second half, and the Cats rallied past the defending champs for a convincing win to return to the Bi-County throne after Culver ended their four-peat streak in the 2011 championship game last January.
“All it was was just basically turning the heat up and the intensity and playing the way they’re capable of playing,” said Minix. “They just played like they walked in here thinking they were going to win it as soon as they stepped on the floor. The second half they realized they were in a dogfight and we’ve got to start playing. Culver played a heck of a first half, and they wanted it really bad. We upped the tempo a little bit, and we were able to get a lot of turnovers from them.”
“I don’t know if we were getting tired in that second half, and we were making mental mistakes, but they really sped us up and we really did a lot of things that we don’t normally do,” said Culver head coach Tony Scheub. “It’s hard to prepare for a team like OD. We really didn’t get a chance to see them because we played Saturday and then today.
“We just kind of walked into that pressure. It would have been nice to at least put 12 people on the court against our five to prepare for them, but what are you going to do?”
Monday’s win represented not only the first Bi-County championship for most of OD’s sophomore-heavy squad, but its first championship of any kind. It’s been a long dry spell for a talented young group that breezed through junior high without a single loss.
“It’s one thing we keep reminding these kids. When they were junior high they won everything; they never got beat,” said Minix. “They had never won anything since they’ve been in high school. We’ve been runner-up in every tournament we’ve been in, but they’ve never won one, and that was one of the things we talked about at halftime. You think you’re good, and in junior high you were good. You’ve got to come out and improve now, and they did. They played with a sense of urgency in the second half.”
OD was led by Ashley Campbell’s 17 points scoring off the dribble and from beyond the arc. The sophomore guard notched four steals and passed out three assists at the game to spark the Cats on both ends of the floor and earn herself the tournament MVP.
W.B Hawkins Award-winner Katie Schwenk chipped in 11 points, and her offensive rebound and put-back at the 6:32 stop of the third frame keyed the Cats’ decisive 23-0 run, while Haley Collings pulled down a game-best 14 rebounds, and Alicia McIntosh notched four steals and three assists.
Schultz finished with seven points, three steals, six rebounds and three assists. for Culver. The Cavs were led by sophomore combo player Kayla Shaffer’s game-high 21 points with six rebounds, three steals and three assists. Shaffer put up 18 of her points in the first half but was limited to three points in the second half as OD rallied past the potential Sectional 51 foe.
“They did a good job of pressuring our ball handlers so we couldn’t get the ball to (Shaffer),” said Scheub of the second half. “I don’t know if they did anything special to her, but they just turned the heat up a little bit, and we couldn’t get the ball to her. We couldn’t get it to our two, our three and our posts. I think their pressure on our guards really made us struggle more than anything.”
• OREGON-DAVIS 49, CULVER 36
At Lakeville (Bi-County championship)
Score by quarters
OD: 16 24 44 49
Culver: 8 25 29 36
OREGON-DAVIS (49): Katie Schwenk 3 3-4 11, Ashley Campbell 6 2-8 17, Alicia McIntosh 1 2-2 5, Alexandria Stout 0 0-0 0, Jesse Avarone 4 2-4 10, Kendra Sauer 1 0-0 2, Ashley Clark 0 0-0 0, Haley Collings 2 0-0 4, Lincy Jones 0 0-0 0; Totals: 17 9-18 49.
CULVER (36): Ali Overmyer 0 0-0 0, Angela Lewellen 0 0-0 0, Tatum Schultz 2 3-4 7, Abby James 2 0-0 4, Donna Zehner 0 0-0 0, Mickella Hardy 2 0-0 4, Kayla Shaffer 8 3-5 21; Totals: 14 6-9 36.
3-pointers: OD 6 (Campbell 3, Schwenk 2, McIntosh), Culver 2 (Shaffer 2); Turnovers: OD 16, Culver 33; Rebounds: OD 31 (Collings 14), Culver 37 (Schultz 6, Shaffer 6); Steals: OD 17 (Campbell 4, McIntosh 4), Culver 7 (Schultz 3, Shaffer 3); Assists: OD 8 (Campbell 3, McIntosh 3), Culver 7 (Schultz 3, Shaffer 3); Fouls (fouled out): OD 12 (none), Culver 13 (none).
Records: Culver 8-9, OD 15-4.