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Bulldogs' 2-1 opening week indicates young, inexperienced players will be contributors.

WILL DENNER/MADRAS PIONEER - The Bulldogs were dealt a tough hand over the weekend as they found out starting point guard Mia Gamboa (14) will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks with an ankle injury. Her leadership and activity on Culver's press looks will be tough to replace.
Culver got off to a fast start this season, but it came at a costly price.

The team learned on Sunday that its starting point guard, Mia Gamboa, will be sidelined for six to eight weeks with an ankle injury.

The Bulldogs split their two games at the Sherman Invitational last weekend, losing to Grant Union 51-32, before rebounding with a 51-27 victory over Stanfield the following day.

But in both games, Gamboa watched from the sidelines during the fourth quarter. While she was on the court, however, her leadership was invaluable to Culver's success.

"She really showed leadership on the court this weekend and it's going to change how we do things for a while," Culver head coach Scott Fritz said.

The Bulldogs will be at a loss to replace her, particularly in their press, where she was effective guarding the inbounds passing lanes as well as dropping back to intercept lob passes.

But, several players proved during the first week that they will be regular contributors. Aside from primary scoring option Irma Retano, who has led the team in points and rebounds in every game thus far, Elly Bautista put together a solid performance against Stanfield, scoring 10 points on 5 for 11 shooting. Off the bench, Ryanne Scholl and Nena Mendoza have been dependable in the post, as has starter Mikayla Haessler.

Culver throttles La Pine in season opener at home

In both teams' season-opening game, La Pine had no answer for Culver on the Bulldogs' home floor.

Culver's hounding press and speed in transition took La Pine out of Wednesday's game just minutes after it began. The final score, 51-16, could have been even more lopsided had Culver not taken out its starters for most of the second half.

A 17-1 Culver lead after one quarter eventually became a 35-1 advantage by halftime, as La Pine was held without a field goal and scored its only point on a made free throw. Retano scored all 21 of her points in the first half, while also recording a team-high nine steals. The Bulldogs combined for 21 total steals, many of them coming from their suffocating press that La Pine was unable to break for much of the game.

La Pine began inbounding the ball to senior Haily Hinkle, listed at 6-foot-0 on the Hawks' roster, who towered over every Culver player. But the Bulldogs adjusted, and continued picking off La Pine passes at will.

The Bulldogs' seven assists didn't necessarily jump off the stat page, but the ball movement and passing appeared much improved from last season, according to players and coaches.

There was Retano, drawing two defenders just outside the key, finding Scholl on a timely bounce pass; Haessler lobbing a ball from across the court to Retano in transition and Gamboa fitting an entry pass into a narrow window, prompting Fritz to call it one of the best passes he's seen in his 10 years of coaching.

"We had way better passes than last year throughout the whole season," said Haessler, who tallied 10 points in her first varsity start. "It was just phenomenal to see the team work as a team."

The victory was certainly one to be shared among the team; seven players scored for the Bulldogs, including Scholl, who put up eight points and cleaned up seven rebounds, plus Gamboa's six points to go along with four steals and three assists.

Culver also got a bit of retaliation in the win, after losing both meetings to La Pine last season, once on the road and two weeks later at home. Granted, La Pine lost seven seniors to graduation in the offseason. But Culver was simply glad to win its season opener, particularly with tougher tests upcoming.

"I expected it to be a tougher game, but getting an easy one is always nice, too," Fritz said.

The Bulldogs will face Lakeview Friday at 4:30 p.m. in the first round of the Running Raider Tournament.

Contact Will Denner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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@MadrasSports, @WillCDenner

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