First round in the books at entertaining OD Sectional

Staff Writer

Tuesday's Sectional 51 openers went just about as scripted, but the outcomes could hardly have been more different.
In the opener, Culver Community's season ended much the same way it began — with a loss to South Central — although this time around the No. 5-ranked Lady Cavs were much more competitive versus the No. 4-rated Satellites.
The last five seconds were wildly dramatic, with Culver senior Donna Zehner knocking down a baseline jumper to push her team out to a 37-36 advantage and what looked like the win as the final horn sounded, but after conferring briefly, the referees awarded South Central's bench a timeout and dialed back the clock to 1.7 seconds, giving the Satellites the chance for one more play.
Olivia Tomlen's fullcourt Hail Mary pass found Riley Popplewell near the South Central basket despite Zehner's defensive pressure, and Popplewell turned and delivered a buzzer-beater to lift the Satellites to a 38-37 win.
One official called the shot off. After another conference, however, it was ruled good, and Culver players walked off the court stunned.
It was far from the outcome head coach Gina Hierlmeier wanted for her team, but she couldn't find fault with the Cavs' effort. In the end, the ball just didn't bounce their way.
“Obviously we were trying to defend at any position,” said the Culver boss of the game-deciding play. “We wanted them to throw it in at our end of the court; that was the goal. But they threw it deep. You defend that play 10 times, and maybe nine out of the 10 you come up with it. This time it went her way and she was able to finish in the time given on the clock. You have to give credit to them for executing, and it was a heartbreaker but the girls played hard and I thought we battled back and got ourselves in a position late to win the basketball game.”
Meanwhile, in the late game, the defending state champion No. 7 Lady Cats got off to a slow start against an Argos team that — although it had lost 57-44 to OD a little less than a month ago — looked like it had every expectation of winning on the Cats' home turf at The Den.
An 8-0 run spanning the last minute of the first quarter through the first half-minute of the second pushed the Dragons out to a 16-6 lead. OD pushed back against the challengers, but Argos still clung to a 25-20 halftime advantage.
In the second half, however, OD got back to what it does so well, utilizing its run-and-jump fullcourt trap to force 16 second half turnovers by the Dragons. Even when Argos was able to get in position in the halfcourt, the turnovers seemed to have had a snowball effect on the young Dragons' offense, and a 22-2 third quarter by the three-time defending sectional champs put the game out of reach en route to a 61-42 final margin.
“In the first half, it was kind of me, we didn’t do any kind of run-and-jump,” said OD head coach Terry Minix of his team's halftime adjustments. “I tried to lay back in the first half and hope that we could get some rebounds and be able to run up and down the floor, and it didn’t work out too well for us. So we said, well, we’ve got to go to what we usually do, what we do best, and that’s our run-and-jump. So we ran that and got a lot of turnovers and were able to get some easy baskets.”
“We played a brilliant — I thought the kids did — first half,” said Argos head coach Gary Teel. “We really played well and took charge of the game. In the second half we knew, we talked at halftime that they were going to go with their fullcourt trap, which we assumed they would. We set up our press break, but unfortunately they were triple-teaming the ball, and maybe we needed to get rid of it sooner. We just didn’t handle that pressure as well as we did the first time when we played them a month ago… But the sectional is a completely different game with the pressure and so forth. They had the lead, and I think maybe they just got a little bit tentative, and when you get a little bit tentative in a game you tend to make mistakes.”
With the sectional openers in the books, No. 4 South Central now looks to take on No. 7 Triton in the early semifinal Friday in Hamlet. OD advances to face LaCrosse in the late game Friday.