Culver girls basketball team grabs crucial road win
Once the Bulldogs lost by double digits at Weston-McEwen last Friday night, the following afternoon game at Pilot Rock became all the more important.
Although Culver head coach Scott Fritz didn't mention it before tipoff, the stakes of Saturday's game were fairly simple — win and keep hopes alive of a run at the CBC District Tournament and potential playoff berth, or lose and be on the outside looking in.
The Bulldogs rose to the occasion.
Culver, while only shooting 25 percent for the game, entirely shut down Pilot Rock with a stingy half-court defense.
Pilot Rock led 10-9 after the first quarter, but after Grace Austin converted an and-one, giving the Rockets a 13-9 lead, Pilot Rock shot just 2 for 32 the rest of the way.
The Bulldogs (12-8, 3-2 Columbia Basin Conference) put a bit of distance between themselves and Pilot Rock (11-9, 1-4) in the league standings, ahead of an important weekend that includes a Saturday game at Heppner.
"It basically means we're still in the hunt," Fritz said. "I think if we had lost that (game), our chances of even making the playoffs would've been slim. So it was a huge win."
Although Culver is a team that often relies on its full-court press, it almost exclusively dropped back and made Pilot Rock go against its half-court defense. After returning home from Pilot Rock that night, Fritz said he stayed up until 2 a.m. watching game film. What he saw was a Bulldog team that gave up very little defensively.
"We didn't give them any open, easy looks," Fritz said. "Everything was contested. We just had them frustrated."
Culver's only struggle was against Austin, who scored 12 of Pilot Rock's 21 points, on some lobs over the top of the Bulldog defense and baseline pindowns.
Mia Gamboa led the Bulldogs with 11 points. She connected on her only 3-point attempt and also knocked down a couple shots from the midrange.
Irma Retano chipped in nine points, 14 rebounds, including seven offensive, six steals and two blocks, one of which was a forceful swat out of bounds.
Fritz also credited Rosi Olivera for playing some meaningful spot minutes in place of Gamboa after she picked up her fourth foul in the third quarter.
"We're standing around waiting for the second half to start, and I told her, 'Keep your head up and be ready,'" Fritz said. "We put Rosi in, and within 10 seconds, she found herself wide open on the wing and canned a 3."
Culver scored its most points (12) in the fourth quarter, eight of which came from the line. Mikayla Haessler, Elly Bautista and Retano combined to shoot 8 for 10 at the line in the quarter.
The scoring pace was much slower than Friday's game at Weston-McEwen, in which both teams traded baskets early, before the TigerScots jumped out to a double-digit lead.