by: Billy Gates/The Pioneer - Culver’s Alysha Fritz defends Riverside’s Christina Gurerra during the Bulldogs’ 36-22 loss to the Class 3A Pirates on Thursday at Culver High School.

Right now for the Culver girls basketball team, the brown thing just isn't going in the round thing.
   The Bulldogs dropped a 36-22 decision to Class 3A Riverside at home on Thursday, then couldn't find a way to get past Class 1A South Wasco County in a nail-biter, 38-37, Friday in Maupin.
   "I was definitely a lot happier with the way we played against South Wasco," Culver head coach Scott Fritz said. "Against Riverside, we were just a step slow on every rotation it seemed. The effort was there, just not the quickness and speed."
   With the Tri-River Conference schedule on the horizon - it starts Wednesday at their friendly confines against Central Linn - the Bulldogs have a 2-7 record, but that isn't a concern for Fritz.
   "Last season we were 7-3 heading into the conference schedule, and then lost in the first round of the conference tournament," he said. "If we can make a run in league and get past the first round, then the season will be better than last year."
   In order to do that, however, the Bulldogs are going to have to start putting the ball in the bucket. They've scored 40 points or more in a game just twice, and were shut out in the second quarter in Thurday's game against the Pirates.
   But Fritz is staying optimistic about his team, saying the youth factor should wear off gradually as the season goes. He also expects the team's competitiveness and willingness to put the work in to pay off in the long run.
   After Friday's game, and a talk in the locker room, the team decided they needed to get up at 9 a.m., on a day usually reserved for morning cartoons, to hit the hardwood.
   Fritz didn't have a practice scheduled for Saturday - the team wanted one, though
   "That's what I love about these girls," he said. "They are so competitive and want to win."
   The extra practice session should pay off, since they will only get one more before they take on the Cobras in the TRC opener at home.
   Central Linn, of Halsey, enters the contest with a 1-9 record. Their only win came Dec. 8 against the Klamath Union junior varsity team, 39-18, at the Running Raider Tournament.
   Granted, the Cobras have played a predomimantly Class 3A and 4A nonconference schedule, but they took a pounding at the hands of Class 2A Days Creek, 64-36, Dec. 14.
   Fritz said the biggest issue with his team is since it's so young, the speed of the game is something they simply aren't used to yet. Even at the 2A level, there is a huge difference in speed from what the younger players are used to.
   "I didn't realize it would be as much of a jump as it is, but it is," Fritz said. "Things are just going to take time, and we've shown some good things in spurts."
   Fritz has "a good feeling" about the next two games, though, and he thinks his club can pick up a couple wins, kick-start its confidence and be back on track.
   "We've just got to avoid stretches where we turn the ball over," he said. "What I love about these kids is that they aren't quitters, and if we get some wins here they'll realize they can get it done."
   South Wasco 38
   Culver 37
   The Bulldogs had a shot to win it, but missed free throws and timely shooting by the Redsides allowed the Big Sky Conference team to hold serve on its home floor in Maupin.
   Culver sophomore point guard Sara McKinney, who has been battling back and hamstring injuries all season, poured in 12 points against the Redsides, and found her long-range shooting touch with three 3-pointers. Her perimeter shooting is something Fritz said the team is going to need if they want to be successful.
   Lori Sandy put together a big night for the Bulldogs, scoring 11 points and reeling in 13 rebounds, and Andrea Retano pulled down eight boards.
   Culver led at halftime, 18-15, but a 14-7 third-quarter advantage by the Redsides ended up being the clincher.
   "We started out of the gate well," Fritz said. "We played quicker and smarter than we did against Riverside."
   Playing a tight man-to-man defense, the men in stripes weren't too kind to the Bulldogs and they got into foul trouble. That forced Fritz to make his team drop into a 2-3 zone, and then the Redsides took advantage.
   Riverside 36
   Culver 22
   Culver couldn't figure out Riverside and scored just two points in the first half in a home loss Thursday.
   Sandy and Hannah Lewis each scored five points to lead the Bulldogs. Culver shot 8 for 26 from the foul line.
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