Girls basketball: Role players pivotal in Culver win over Taft
One day after Culver saw its play go sideways in the second half, it made sure not to have a repeat Wednesday afternoon at home.
The Lady Bulldogs beat 3A Taft 45-29, but rather than letting their opponent hang around, they distanced themselves from the first minute of the third quarter.
Lesli Alvarado scored two buckets on consecutive possessions, then Elly Bautista got one of her own, all within the first minute of the quarter, and all made possible from Culver's backcourt pressure that resulted in 22 steals.
The quick run put the Bulldogs up 32-17, and helped them gain some distance in an eventual 45-29 victory.
"We've really been struggling the third quarter," Alvarado said. "We thought this was a perfect chance to attack and get them from the start. That's something we're planning to work in more ... We just want to keep pushing them more, so we have a good enough lead to where we don't have to worry about it anymore."
Combined with Tuesday's 28-22 win at Sisters, Culver improved to 6-4 with four games left in its nonconference schedule. And like most wins for the Bulldogs this season, the opposing team had trouble handling its press. That was particularly true in the fourth quarter, when the Bulldogs held Taft to a mere three points.
For the game, Culver forced 22 steals, including six apiece from Mikayla Haessler and Irma Retano.
Retano, who led Culver with 18 points and seven rebounds, did all of her scoring damage in the first two quarters, accounting for all but eight of the team's points. But the Bulldogs continued to pile on the points after halftime. The fact that baskets came from supporting players was a welcome sight to see for Culver head coach Scott Fritz.
"That's something we need; we can't (always) rely on Irma to score," Fritz said. "Against conference teams, they're going to be taking her away a lot more."
Alvarado had nine points to go along with three rebounds and three steals. Fritz called Alvarado's performance "the game of her career." Bautista added eight points and Haessler chipped in six.
"We always look for Irma," Alvarado said. "Irma is our number one person, but if not, everyone has to pick up slack. We all noticed that, and today, we saw that it was evenly spread out."
Culver also had 16 turnovers, an improvement for them compared to the previous two games, although Fritz estimated half of them were unforced giveaways. The team has put an emphasis on practicing fundamentals; one of the highest priorities is passing.
"We're working on those little things," Fritz said. "It makes for boring practices, but that's where we have to get better."
The Bulldogs get a full week off for the holidays, and will resume game action on Thursday at the Sisters Holiday Tournament, where they are set to face Crook County at 1 p.m. in the opening game.
And, the Bulldogs are optimistic that they could return point guard Mia Gamboa from an ankle injury when the tournament begins. Gamboa hasn't appeared in a game since Dec. 2, when Culver beat Stanfield 51-27. They are eager to play at full strength, especially with how the last week has transpired, as other players have stepped up.
"We finally figured out our roles, and by knowing our roles, we all help each other out now," Alvarado said. "We're definitely excited to see what happens with Mia coming back. I think we'll be even better than before."
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