Culver girls basketball preview: Versatile Lady Cavs hope to improve on 5-win season
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The Culver girls basketball team reached back to their past last week when they hosted Andrean in a scrimmage.
Andrean coach Tony Scheub was Culver’s coach from 2010-12 and guided Culver to a 25-2 record and a regional title in 2011.
Current Culver coach Shane Lowry was an assistant coach on that 2011 team, and he said that Scheub’s presence was not the only thing that made him nostalgic.
The other is senior forward Kennedy Jackson, a transfer from Rochester who played on sectional winning teams there in 2020 and 2021.
“Back-to-the-basket post dominance,” Lowry said when asked what Jackson can provide that Culver has not had in recent seasons. Lowry then compared Jackson to the leading scorer on that 2011 team.
“Back to Gwen Zehner. … We haven’t had that since Gwen Zehner, that type of back-to-the-basket post position player.”
Jackson is just the latest piece in a tapestry of diverse skill sets. Rose Peterson, the team’s top returning scorer, can handle point and shooting guard roles. Grace Sieber can also handle both spots too. Brynn Berndt can play all five spots. Avery Garland is a junior that can play inside and outside. Luci Overmyer can play both forward spots. Maisy McCuen is a “Swiss army knife,” according to Lowry.
Culver is 13-31 in Lowry’s two seasons as coach and 1-13 in conference play. In those 44 games, they failed to score 30 points in 18 of them and went 0-18 in those games.
Having graduated only Lizzie Pugh from last year’s team and after a summer playing the Zone Summer League in Plymouth, Lowry hopes that the team can produce both more points and more wins.
“We’re going to try to do more playing basketball,” Lowry said. “We’ve talked about running more four-out with some rules, which we’re working on now. … A lot of teams zoned us last year, so running (associate coach Brett Berndt’s) sets, his five actions … playing more of a basic zone offense and just getting open and reading is something that we’re focusing on this year.
“And we’re going to be able to get out a little more on defense too and do some more things than what we’ve done in the past, just with more players and more understanding of the game.”
Lowry said there is also a different defensive mindset within the program. He said he would like to play more man-to-man, but even if they are in a zone, it will not be passive.
“We’re going to play a more aggressive zone,” Lowry said. “We’re not going to sit back and try to hold scores down. We’re going to try to get out and run the floor and try to be more aggressive with what we have. We’d love to play all man. That would be ideal, but we’re going to have to mix some zone in there. And it’s not bad to keep teams guessing and on their toes.”
Peterson’s 37-point game in a 56-48 win over Triton in the sectional quarterfinals punctuated a season in which she was both the team’s top scorer and a team leader. Even though this is just her second year at Culver after transferring in from Granger Christian, Lowry said it seems like Peterson “has been with us forever.”
“She eventually gained the confidence of her teammates through her offensive play,” Lowry said. “So by the end of the year, she was our speaking captain on the floor. … Coming in as a junior, with our sophomore class and our one senior and the girls who were bench players who stepped up and got minutes from their sophomore year to their junior year, Rose was a big leader for that group. It just took her a little bit of time for her to get to know everybody, but her play gave her that role, the way she came in and just led by experience and her actions.”
In addition to Jackson and Peterson, other seniors include Kaylee Hamilton, Luci Overmyer, Maisy McCuen and newcomer Abbi Kisela.
Lowry called the 5-5 Hamilton a “program player” who is one of the team’s quicker players and better defenders.
McCuen is a “tweener” at 5-6, according to Lowry.
“She wants to be what Lizzie Pugh was to us,” Lowry said. “Hopefully she can play inside and outside. She’s in between. She’s learning spots. She’s not really a perimeter player. She hasn’t been a shooter. She hasn’t been that scoring type. She’s always been that dirty work person.”
The 5-8 Garland won the team’s Practice Player of the Week Award during the first week of practice. Lowry said that Garland can play all three frontcourt roles – small forward, power forward and post.
“She’s grown the most,” Lowry said. “Being all-conference in volleyball should help her in basketball. She’s gaining that confidence of being more of a team leader. She can do that. She’s one of our scorers. … She looks a lot more aggressive.”
Lowry said that Sieber might have to play more shooting guard with Peterson and Berndt on the court. Then again, Berndt, a sophomore, can play most anywhere.
“Brynn, she can play all five spots, and she knows all five spots,” Lowry said. “I’m just lucky to have her in our program.”
Berndt joins Amiyah Williams, a 5-9 forward, in keying the sophomore group.
“There’s nothing in my mind other than her that will stop her,” Lowry said. “She has all the physical attributes to start for us, but it’s a work-in-progress as well. Her body can make her dominant, and she’s got to learn how to use it. That’s where she’s at, and that’s where I’m hoping Kennedy can make our whole post game and her that much better.”
However, Kassidy Banks will not play this year after season-ending ACL surgery suffered during soccer season.
Luci Overmyer is also slowly recovering from a shoulder injury and will play either the small forward or power forward spots once she is healthy.
Other newcomers include junior Elexia O’Brien, sophomore Maddy Hamilton, freshman Bre Hamilton, Ivan Torres Escobar, Emily Hawkins and Bre Schlemmer.
“There’s three levels of sports in life,” Lowry said. “You either like a sport, you love a sport, or you live it. And we’ve got some girls that live sports, where you can roll the basketball out and they don’t want to be beat. And I can’t say we’ve had that every year. … I have senior leaders right now that don’t want to lose. They want to get out there, and when they step on the court, it’s a competition. We have that now. We have that in each grade level.”
Culver again plays nine games before Thanksgiving, but they also have an 18-day break between games from Dec. 16-Jan. 5. That includes three games in a five-day span to the Central time zone against Tri-Township (the school formerly known as LaCrosse), South Central (Union Mills) and sectional rival Westville from Nov. 8-12.
The season opener against defending 3A sectional champion Culver Academy has been moved up one day from Friday to Thursday due to the success of the Culver football team.
“We’re just going to have to figure out how to dig deep and make corrections on the fly,” Lowry said of the early rush of games. “That’s what we did last year. And concentrate more on us.”
Nov. 3 – vs. Culver Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 5 – vs. Trinity Greenlawn, 2 p.m.
Nov. 8 – at Tri-Township, 7 p.m.
Nov. 9 – at South Central (Union Mills), 7 p.m.
Nov. 12 – at Westville, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 15 – vs. Winamac, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 17 – vs. Elkhart Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 19 – at Pioneer, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 22 – vs. Argos, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 30 – at Rochester, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 2 – at Lakeland Christian, 6 p.m.
Dec. 10 – vs. Knox, 6 p.m.
Dec. 15 – at North Judson, 8 p.m.
Dec. 16 – vs. South Bend Career Academy, 6 p.m.
Jan. 5 – at Caston, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 11 – at Frontier, 6 p.m.
Jan. 13 – at Triton, 6 p.m.
Jan. 17-21 – Bi-County Tournament (field includes Argos, Bremen, John Glenn, LaVille, New Prairie, Oregon-Davis, Triton)
Jan. 23 – at DeMotte Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 26 – vs. West Central, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 28 – vs. LaVille, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 31-Feb. 4 – Class 1A, Sectional 50 at Culver
Class 1A, Sectional 50
Culver, Argos, Marquette Catholic, Oregon-Davis, Trinity Greenlawn, Triton, Westville