Youth coming through for Culver girls

Team goes 1-1 at Sherman Co. Invite
The Culver girls basketball team finished second at the Sherman County Invitational during weekend play, defeating the host Huskies on Friday, 49-37, but then fell to Weston-McEwen, 54-50, in the title game on Saturday in Moro.
   Trailing Sherman County 13-3 early in the first half, Culver head coach Scott Fritz could see the writing on the wall, and it wasn't good.
   But, to his surprise and amazement, the Bulldogs fought back to tie the game by halftime, then ripped off a 16-4 third quarter to seal it.
   "I was kind of thinking, `Here we go again,' but the girls fought back. They showed me something."
   The key to the big third quarter, Fritz said, was his team's ability to execute a 2-3 zone defense that they hadn't spent a minute on in practices leading up to the tournament.
   "We just drew it up in the locker room and told people what their responsibilities were," he said. "The girls did exactly what they needed to do."
   Fritz said it forced Sherman County into turnovers, which the Bulldogs converted into points to turn a tied, stressful game into a comfortable, double-digit lead.
   "We played a bit more fundamental in the third period," Fritz said. "We created our points with our defense."
   Senior guard Lori Sandy poured in a game-high 23 points for the Bulldogs, which prompted Fritz to call her play "phenomenal."
   "She drove to the hoop hard and was getting in the lane pretty well," Fritz said. "We had a bunch of young players step up and play well, too."
   Of those young players, freshman Alysha Fritz played a crucial role in helping get the Bulldogs their first win of the year.
   Fritz was Culver's second-leading scorer with eight points, helping out while senior center Cassie Fulton struggled with foul trouble all game long.
   Weston-McEwen 54, Culver 50
   In the tournament championship game Saturday against Weston-McEwen, Fritz said the TigerScots' "in your face" style of defense was exactly what his young team needed to see this season.
   He said the physicality Weston-McEwen played with is something his team will have to get used to if they want to compete with the likes of Regis and Santiam, two top-notch Tri-River Conference opponents.
   "It was an experience we had to have," Fritz said. "We have to get ready for our league, and potentially playoffs because that's the style you have to play."
   Combined, the teams shot 61 free throws, Fritz said. The split was 32-29 with Culver putting up the most, and Sandy herself shot 12 in the third quarter. She converted nine of them.
   All but two of her points came from the foul line.
   At least for the nonconference schedule, until point guard Sara McKinney returns to the floor from a back injury, the Bulldogs are going to dip into the fountain of youth and use freshmen quite a bit.
   Fritz was pleased with Emma Hoke and the defense she played when he needed her to.
   "She changed the game with her defensive pressure," Fritz said. "She played with intensity, and even chased down some loose balls and hustled everywhere."
   The Bulldogs called on the 2-3 zone again to try to slow down a lightning-fast TigerScots squad, and it worked for the most part. Weston-McEwen lit up Southwest Christian, 72-30, the night before and Fritz said holding them to 54 was a feat in itself.
   Fulton led the Bulldogs in scoring with 14 points, followed by Lewis with 13 and Sandy, 11, to round out the double-digit scorers.
   Culver scored 19 points in the third period to tie the game.
   Overall, Fritz thought his team played great, and he can't wait to have his starting point guard back to make his team that much more complete.
   "We should be a team to be reckoned with once we get Sara back," Fritz said. "We know what playing this physical is like now, so we can practice it."
   As for the team right now, Fritz said he couldn't be happier with how they did.
   "I rode all the way home on the bus with a smile on my face," he said.