SISTERS — Defensive adjustments in the second half and the return of their standout point guard lifted the Culver Bulldogs to their third straight victory.
Junior Mia Gamboa, out of action since Dec. 2 with an ankle injury, was back to direct the Bulldogs on Thursday in their 48-32 girls basketball win over Crook County on the first day of the Sisters Holiday Tournament.
Culver advances to play Henley at 3 p.m. Friday.
Gamboa scored eight points in her return to the lineup, helping the Class 2A Bulldogs (7-4) knock off the 4A Cowgirls (2-8).
“We played Mia more than we expected,” said Culver coach Scott Fritz. “We didn’t think we would have her play too much, but the way the first half was going, we kind of needed her in there.”
Fritz noted that the Bulldogs missed a number of early scoring opportunities.
“They started out in a press,” Fritz said. “We broke it, but then we missed a lot of layups and inside shots.”
Culver led 9-8 after one quarter but stretched the advantage to 29-21 by halftime. Then the Bulldogs cinched up their defense and limited the Cowgirls to just 10 points in the second half.
“They were running people off high screens and we were just following them (around the screens),” Fritz said of his team’s first-half defense. “We did a much better job defensively in the second half, much better half-court defense. The girls were finally taking what we’ve been working on in practice and relaying it to the game.”
Irma Retano scored a game-high 14 points to pace the Bulldogs, including seven in the third quarter, when Culver extended its lead to 43-29. Mikayla Haessler added nine points for the winners, who were a season-best 12-for-19 from the free-throw line.
Grace Kasberger scored 10 points to lead Crook County. Odessa Tramel-Green, Dallas Hutchins and Sarah Connolly combined for 15 points for the Cowgirls, who play La Grande at 5 p.m. Friday.