CGA trumps Culver in OT in rough crosstown contest

CULVER — If she were a basketball coach, Gertrude Stein might have described Wednesday’s crosstown rivalry game between Culver Community and Culver Girls Academy like this: "A win is a win is a win."
Anyway, that’s how CGA Head Coach Gary Christlieb summed up his team’s overtime victory against Culver Community at home at The Academies.
In an intensely physical game where neither team’s offense was clicking and with Lady Eagles starters Andrijana Cvitkovic and Victoria Christlieb both fouled out, CGA’s reserves held tough, and junior guard Saralena Barry beat the buzzer with the game-winning pull-up to seal a 36-35 win over the Cavaliers as Academies fans poured onto the floor.
“You’ve got to give credit to the kids at the end,” said Christlieb. “We had a hodgepodge lineup on the floor; Victoria and Andrijana had both fouled out. We were able to stem the tide and then get a big rebound off a missed free throw, we got it into Saralena’s hands and she got a great read and just took it to the basket. We were kidding her, we thought it was too hard and she was going to miss it, but it rattled in.”
“It was not a pretty game I don’t think on either side,” he continued. “Offensive play was definitely very limited, although we did execute a couple of times in our stagnant offense that we ran pretty well. Defensively we hung tough and tried to do some things that we needed to do, got some stops. It’s typical; it’s an emotional game, it always has been, and I’m sure it always will be. You can sit there and say, it wasn’t the greatest or prettiest win that you have, but a win’s a win’s a win. But you can take away a lot of things. People say you need to learn from a loss, but we can learn an awful lot from this victory too.”
After taking an initial 4-0 advantage and swapping leads five times with CGA, Culver trailed most of the second half.
A big 3 from Barry at the 4:47 mark of the third quarter sparked a 7-0 run that gave the Eagles a 24-18 lead, and the Cavs trailed until junior guard Ali Overmyer banked in the game’s only other 3 from the corner with 7.3 seconds left in regulation, sophomore guard Kayla Shaffer ran down a CGA turnover on an inbound pass, and sophomore forward Donna Zehner split a pair of free throws with a second on the clock to knot the score at 34-all and force overtime.
Culver Community sophomore Abby James split another pair of free throws at the 3:49 mark of the extra period to give the Cavs a tentative 35-34 advantage, but the visitors went 0 for 4 from the stripe in two trips to the line after that, setting the stage for Barry’s last-second heroics.
“She was pretty excited after she made that first one, and I was hoping that she would knock down that second one so we could go home because the kids were tired,” said Culver Community Head Coach Tony Scheub of Zehner’s overtime-forcing freebie. “I’m really excited about how they played. We’re going to have to figure out a different way to work on our free throws. We try different times in practice, we try to shoot them twice in practice, so we’ll change it up and see what we can do.”
Zehner stepped up big in the absence of fellow Culver freshman forward Mickella Hardy, who sat out Wednesday’s game with concussion-like symptoms. Zehner finished with a game-high 18 points, including 14 in the second half, and a team-leading seven rebounds.
“She just stepped up with Mickella out, and I don’t know if she felt like she needed to step her game up, but she was posting up strong,” said Scheub. “Coach (Shane) Lowry and Coach (Heather) Overmyer have been really working with the post and getting them to be more physical. It’s paying off right now. I’m excited; I think she took a big step forward today. The way she played I’m hoping that she gets confidence from this and it carries over.”
CGA was led by Cvitkovic’s double-double of 14 points and 18 rebounds, but the agile 6-3 junior was plagued by foul trouble in a contest which featured 36 total fouls, and she fouled out just 11 seconds into overtime at the game.
Given the physicality of play, neither team looked great from the floor as Culver Community finished 13 for 58 and CGA was little better at 17 for 55 from the field. Free throw shooting was even more woeful at the emotional contest as Culver went 8 for 23 from the stripe, and the Eagles were a negligent 1 for 9.
“I think you can see our offensive struggles,” said Christlieb. “We missed a lot of shots. Shooting percentage was not very good, and that came down to some execution. We really struggled and they just scrapped. You’ve got to give them credit; you know they’re going to play hard in this game, and they did. We were able to take a couple things away.
“Kids have to get into a rhythm. They took us out of the rhythm, and that’s what made it difficult for us to get anything going offensively. Very physical game, lots of hand checking and our kids have got marks all over up and down our sides from scratching us and stuff. That takes you out of your rhythm, but that’s the way the game was officiated, and you’ve got to adjust to that.”
Culver Girls Academy improves to 7-1 rebounding from its first loss of the season a 45-31 road defeat at the hands of Saint Joseph’s of Ohio Saturday. The Eagles host South Bend Riley Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
“Games like this only make you better,” said Christlieb. “Throw the records out, this is always going to be a game like this, and you have to be ready. We’ve got some things to work on, but we got the ‘W’, and we had some great moments. Saralena puts a game-winning shot into her repertoire of life experiences. How many kids get an opportunity to do that?”
Culver Community slides to 4-5 with a third straight loss, meanwhile, but while he was disappointed with the outcome, Scheub wasn’t entirely unhappy with his team’s performance at the game, and he’s hoping some of the lessons learned will carry over to Saturday’s Northern State Conference game at Knox.
“As much as I hate to say this — and I hate losing more than anything just like anyone else — but it was a great game,” said the Culver skipper. “We had situations where we needed a stop, we had situations where we had to knock down free throws, we had situations where we needed a basket, so we got a lot of work out of this game.”
At Culver Academies
Culver: 6 12 22 34 35
CGA: 8 13 26 34 36
CULVER (35): Abby James 0 1-2 1, Angela Lewellen 1 0-0 2, Ali Overmyer 1 0-2 3, Tatum Schultz 0 3-6 3, Kayla Shaffer 3 2-5 8, Donna Zehner 8 2-8 18; Totals: 13 8-23 35.
CGA (36): Victoria Christlieb 2 0-0 4, Andrijana Cvitkovic 7 0-5 14, Andrea Lin 0 0-0 0, Alle Baker 0 0-2 0, Lindsay Haller 2 1-2 5, Saralena Barry 3 0-0 7, Monique Novoa 1 0-0 2, Rita Zambon 2 0-0 0; Totals: 17 1-9 36.
3-pointers: Culver 1 (Overmyer), CGA 1 (Barry); Turnovers: Culver 20, CGA 29; Rebounds: Culver 36 (Zehner 7), CGA 47 (Cvitkovic 18); Assists: Culver 9 (Schultz 8), CGA 6 (Christlieb 2, Cvitkovic 2, Haller 2); Steals: Culver 11 (Schultz 4, Shaffer 4); Fouls (fouled out): Culver 14 (none), CGA 22 (Christlieb, Cvitkovic).
Records: Culver 4-5, CGA 7-1.
JV score: CGA  41 (Helen Weinberg 16), Culver 23 (Lonnia Montgomery 13)