Culver girls will rely on talented youth to try to earn playoff spot
As far as Culver High School head girls basketball coach Scott Fritz is concerned, his team is full of sophomores.
While two seniors and two juniors are on the team, they have about the experience level of sophomores, Fritz said.
"We're really young, and we've got a lot of room for improvement," Fritz said. "We'll get there."
Culver has been a team on the rise in the Tri-River Conference, with this being its last year before moving to the Rolling Plains Conference next year.
The Bulldogs hosted a district playoff game last year, something the program hadn't done since the mid 1990s, Fritz said. They won that game, 43-33 against East Linn Christian, but were then dispatched by Kennedy in the second round of the district playoffs.
The natural progression for the team, Fritz said, is to make it to that third district playoff game.
"We've gone from the bottom of the league up to around fifth within the past few years," Fritz said. "Now it's time we compete for those third and fourth spots."
This year, the TRC will send three teams to the state playoffs, but if the Bulldogs are to snag one of the spots, they'll have to rely on almost an entire starting lineup made of sophomores.
Junior Andrea Retano, who will play one of the post positions, is the only player that isn't a sophomore slated to be in the starting lineup for Fritz.
"We plan to do a lot of pick and rolls with her," Fritz said. "We want to get her close to the basket for some easy shots, and she's also done well with penetrating to the hoop, too."
The quartet of second-year talent for the Bulldogs is led by point guard Hannah Lewis. After seeing plenty of varsity time as a freshman last season, Lewis is going to be one of the focal points of Fritz's new offense.
"It's going to be a more free flowing offense, rather than one where you just move to spots," Fritz said. "We need to take advantage of Hannah's athleticism and quickness."
At the off-guard spot, Alysha Fritz (the coachs daughter) will have to fill in as the team's most prolific outside shooter, Coach Fritz said.
Emma Hoke will start at a wing position, and Fritz has been working with her on a lot of dribble penetration and breaking the defense down.
And starting at a post spot will be 5-foot-10 Reanne Slaght, whos a player Fritz has been impressed with early on.
"She has been doing really well there," Fritz said of Slaught. "She's been lifting weights and working on her shot since last spring, and you can really see the difference."
There are 21 girls in the basketball program this year, which is more than enough to make a full JV and varsity squad. Fritz said, however, just because the program has decent numbers doesn't mean that equals depth.
"Our talent drops off pretty sharp after our first five, and then to our next five," Fritz said. "Right now, we're searching for our seventh or eighth player to come off the bench and give us a few minutes here and there."
Fritz wants his team to play pressure defense and create turnovers in the backcourt, but he said that might have to wait for the players to get in better shape. When a team doesn't have a ton of depth, playing a high-paced style of game is awfully tough to do.
Last season, there were times when leading scorers Lori Sandy and Chantelle Seehawer weren't putting up a lot of points. On cue, some of the younger players would step in and pick up the slack in that department, which is something Fritz remembers and is encouraged by for this year.
The schedule in the early going doesn't exactly benefit the Bulldogs, with six of their eight nonconference games on the road.
One of their two home games, the opener of the Culver Tournament on Dec. 20, is against Lost River the team that ended last season with the No. 1 spot in the power ratings.
Class 4A La Pine and Class 1A South Wasco County will also be at the tournament.
To open the season, the Bulldogs will take on Weston-McEwen in the first game of the Sherman County Tournament on Friday in Moro.
"We've got a pretty tough schedule early in the season," Fritz said. "It should be good for us, but if we lose some games early, we'll just need to keep motivated. Our girls are tough and they'll fight through it."