Culver comes up just short of 2A playoff berth
Culver's once-promising season came to an abrupt end on Friday evening, when Heppner topped the Lady Bulldogs 38-25 in the Columbia Basin Conference district semifinals.
Just three days earlier, the Bulldogs were playing Weston-McEwen at Riverside High School in Boardman for the top seed in the upcoming weekend tournament in Pendleton. Had Culver won that game, it would've clinched a postseason berth and a spot in the CBC championship game.
Instead, however, the game was tied at 47 all with seven seconds left, when Culver missed two free throws. Weston-McEwen grabbed the second miss, dribbled down to get a shot off from the block. The shot was off, but an offensive rebound and putback as the buzzer sounded gave Weston-McEwen a 49-47 win.
A telling stat was Weston-McEwen's 51-30 edge in the rebound battle, including 26 offensive rebounds, which gave the TigerScots plenty of second opportunities at shot attempts.
"(We're) not going to win championship games giving up that many rebounds, especially offensive," Culver head coach Scott Fritz said. "And yet we had our opportunity to win it."
So, rather than getting an extra day of rest into Saturday, Culver faced Heppner Friday night for the third time this season, with the road team winning the previous two games.
The Bulldogs owned a 17-16 edge at halftime after they outscored Heppner 10-5 in the second quarter, but their offense hit a standstill in the second half, particularly during the fourth quarter, when they could muster only one point.
Three Bulldogs accounted for all of their points. Irma Retano led the way with 10 points, while Lesli Alvarado chipped in eight and Mia Gamboa seven. Heppner was led by 13 points apiece from Sydney Wilson and Jaycee Currin.
Heppner went on to defeat Weston-McEwen 48-35 on Saturday and earn the top seed out of the CBC.
It was a cruel twist of fate for a Culver team that was on a roll going into this week's slate of games, having won four straight, two of which came on the road. The team was looking for its first postseason bid in well over a decade, but ultimately ended the season similar to last year, one win shy of reaching the next step.
Their season-ending record of 15-10 marked the most wins of Fritz's coaching tenure at Culver that began in 2010, and was the team's third straight year above .500.
Culver's next season figures to have similar aspirations with both Retano and Gamboa set to return as seniors, but the Bulldogs will graduate both Alvarado and Elly Bautista, a couple of cornerstones to Culver's success over the past few seasons.
Alvarado and Bautista earned all-league recognition this season for the first time in their careers, in addition to Retano and Gamboa both landing on the list. Fritz was named Coach of the Year for the second season in a row.