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Culver Bulldogs boys basketball team loses big fourth-quarter lead at 2A Holiday tournament in Pendleton.

STEELE HAUGEN - Brayden Macy looks to pass during the Culver boys basketball game against Kennedy Dec. 18.The Culver boys basketball team kicked league play off in a disappointing fashion on Wednesday, Dec. 18, losing the Kennedy Trojans 63-42.

Culver and Kennedy came out with high energy and the Trojans came out in a full court press. A few plays into the game, a back but by Logan Macy led to an and-1 finish at the rim and the Bulldogs took a 5-4 lead.

Bu then the Trojans went on a quick 7-0 run, but a corner three by Luke Spinelli ended the run and cut the Kennedy lead down to three.

Kennedy took a small 13-8 lead over the Bulldogs at the end of the first quarter.

To start the second quarter, Kennedy went on an 11-0 run. Their full-court press and active hands caused several Culver turnovers, which turned into easy buckets.

The Trojans run was ended by Cord Gomes scoring, but Kennedy had an early 24-10 lead. Kennedy held onto a 35-16 lead at halftime. That deficit was too much for Culver to come back as Kennedy controlled action well enough to secure the comfortable win.

Luke Spinelli scored 11 points for Culver and Logan Macy added 10.

At the Pendleton tourney

The Bulldogs traveled to Pendleton for a 2A preview tournament Dec. 20-21.

Culver played their first game against East Linn Christian Academy and lost a heartbreaker. The Bulldogs had a 10-point lead with two minutes left in the game, but could not close it out.

"In my 25 years of coaching, this was probably the most disappointing game after a loss," head coach John Spinelli said. "We just kind of collapsed the last two minutes. Turnovers, missed free throws, fouls, defense lapses. We just did not finish the game. We lost our composure."

Culver missed 10 free throws in the second half of the game. East Linn Christian Academy hit a shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime and the Bulldogs were down two starters, who had fouled out.

"We were short-handed and they had all the momentum," John Spinelli said. "It was a tough game for the kids; they thought they had it won. It is a good learning point for the kids, it is not over until that final buzzer and you need to finish strong, stay composed, and do your job. It was one of those things, where if it could go wrong, it went wrong. It was disappointing the kids could not pull it out, we played really good the majority of the game."

Luke Spinelli scored 18 points, hitting four 3-pointer for the Bulldogs. Gomes and Clayton Mathews both had seven rebounds.

Against Illinois Valley

Culver played Illinois Valley the next day and fell short 65-63 in another very close game.

"This was another game that we should have won; that is about four this year," said Spinelli. "The game was a back-and-forth one."

Culver was ahead at halftime but struggled in the second half.

"We have these spurts that we give up," Spinelli said. "A couple turnovers, defensive lapse and bad shot and they went on a 8-0 run. It was a game we should have won. The key things was our defensive transition. It was by far the worst we have had all season. It was an 8 a.m. game and we were just a step slow. We did not have our usual energy."

Luke Spinelli hit six baskets from behind the arc, ending the game with 22 points. Gomes added 17 points and seven rebounds. Jordan VanAlstyne ended the night with 11 points, five assists and four steals.

"I told the kids we need to learn our lesson now, so when league comes in a couple weeks, we don't make these same mistakes," Spinelli said. "This is what the non-league games are for, getting us ready for league."

Culver plays at home against Sheridan at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 4. They travel to Delphian to face the Dragons at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7.

"Our league is top heavy, but the bottom half, there is a lot of winnable games for us," said Spinelli. "There are three or four teams we should really be able to compete with and beat those teams. I told the kids not to get discouraged. We are on the right track, improving. We need to put a full game together for 32 minutes."

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