Columbia Basin Conference all-league basketball awards feature four Culver girls
With four players earning all-league recognition, one more than last season, the Culver girls basketball team drew plenty of praise from its Columbia Basin Conference peers.
Junior Irma Retano was one of three CBC players unanimously voted to the first team, junior Mia Gamboa and senior Elly Bautista were named to the second team, and senior Lesli Alvarado earned an honorable mention nod. Culver head coach Scott Fritz was named Coach of the Year.
Retano's junior season carried high expectations after she was named CBC Player of the Year last season as a sophomore. The Bulldogs knew opponents would devote lots of time trying to gameplan stopping Retano. She responded well.
Retano led the Bulldogs in a majority of statistical categories, with averages of 16.2 points, 10 rebounds and 6.4 steals.
She also became a better distributor this season, Fritz said, and took on a bigger defensive role than past years.
"We usually put her on one of the weaker players, because she's so aggressive going for the ball, we didn't want her leaving the team's best player open," Fritz said. "Earlier in the year, we were kind of doing the same thing, and she kept coming over and saying, 'Put me on their best player,' and we started doing it."
The conference declined to name a Player of the Year this season, though Retano earned more points than fellow unanimous selections, Chelsea Quaempts of Weston-McEwen and Kayla Deist of Pilot Rock.
Also trying to follow up a strong sophomore season, Gamboa got on track toward the end of nonleague games after she was sidelined for a few weeks in December with an ankle injury.
Gamboa found some shooting rhythm down the stretch, averaging 12.5 points during Culver's final four regular season games.
"Anytime she can hit out there and give us that second threat, it makes us twice as good of a team," Fritz said.
Bautista earned the distinction of being the only player on the Bulldogs to play in all 25 games this season. With injuries to key players throughout the season, Bautista was a mark of consistency.
She averaged 5.3 points and 2.1 steals, giving the Bulldogs another offensive weapon.
And, during offseason stretches when coaches aren't allowed to instruct players, Bautista was the one leading open gyms and workouts.
"She's in every game, every practice, every open gym," Fritz said. "It goes a long way. It teaches those younger girls what they need to be doing."
Alvarado missed the first half of league with an injury. But it was no coincidence that, when she returned, Culver rattled off four straight wins, all by double digits.
Her defensive instincts and basketball IQ were key for the Bulldogs, Fritz said.
"I think she's got to be credited with a lot of that ... It's just her knowledge of the game and being able to see the court and know what's going on," he said.
Columbia Basin Conference all-league selections
Girls First Team
Irma Retano, jr., Culver (unanimous)
Chelsea Quaempts, sr., Weston-McEwen (unanimous)
Kayla Deist, sr., Pilot Rock (unanimous)
Sydney Wilson, fr., Heppner
Katie Vescio, jr., Weston-McEwen
Jacee Currin, jr., Heppner
Kendra Hart, so., Stanfield
Mia Gamboa, jr., Culver
Savannah Sharp, so., Stanfield
Elly Bautista, sr., Culver
Rhyanne Oats, sr., Pilot Rock
Jordan Lambert, jr., Weston-McEwen
Morgan Correa, sr., Heppner
Alyssa Finifrock, sr., Weston-McEwen
Sara Weinke, sr., Pilot Rock
Lesli Alvarado, sr., Culver
Sophie Grant, sr., Heppner
Coach of the Year: Scott Fritz, Culver