ZIONSVILLE – Friday night was definitely a throwback type of game as Zionsville hosted Class 4A No. 7 rated Culver Academy.
Visiting Culver Academy entered as one of the state’s best teams over the past few seasons, winning the 2017 IHSAA Class 3A state championship and finishing runner-up in that class in 2018, thus moving them up to 4A for this cycle.
Coach Shaun Busick knew his team would have to win with a bit of a different style.
Using it stout 2-3 zone defense and deliberate, but effective possessions Zionsville earned its second home win over a top-10 team on the 2019-20 season, beating Culver Academy 36-32.
“Our defensive plan was actually messed up a little bit because we put our whole game plan around Trey (Galloway, an Indiana signee), (Nicholas) Hittle, and (Deontae) Craig,” said Busick. “They only had two of them there, and Galloway averages about 25 points per game. It threw us into a little bit of a tail spin, and he is a huge difference for them, but they still have two Division I athletes out there with Hittle going to Indiana State and Craig going to Iowa for football.”
Galloway missed the game for undisclosed reasons and Culver’s offense struggled as a result against Zionsville’s zone. Culver (4-1) was just 10 of 26 from the field for the game and struggled to get off good looks against the zone.
Zionsville was content to sit back in its zone on defense and patiently wait for good looks offensively. Ben Weidner and Anthony Scales each hit 3-pointers for a 6-0 Zionsville lead less than three minutes in, but the visitors still managed to finish he first period in a 6-6 tie.
A long Culver drought of over nine minutes from the 2:19 mark of the first quarter until the 1:07 mark of the second quarter allowed Zionsville to pull in front 12-6, but Hittle connected on a three and Craig was fouled on a three-pointer and hit all three free throws to tie it.
Dylan Ritter’s triple just before the half made it 15-12 Zionsville at the break.
“With what we lost this season we knew we were going to have to win a little differently,” said Busick. “Hittle is a good Division I basketball player, but I felt that Gunner Vanatta’s defense was a key to the win because he only allowed him to have one shot inside the three-point line. Gunner’s toughness was huge tonight.”
Things opened up a little more in the third period as Zionsville (2-1) expanded its lead to 26-19 after three.
The hosts then had a key sequence to push the lead to 11 at the start of the fourth quarter. Zionsville worked nearly two and a half minutes off the clock before Weidner scored inside, then as Culver brought the ball up the floor Weidner made a steal and scored again to make it 30-19.
“I don’t care how it looks, really,” said Busick of the slower play. “This is a different team. I don’t care who scores or how many they score, and I hope they are becoming that way too. Statistics don’t matter. The only one that does is the one at the end of the game.”
Culver did have a final run thanks to Craig. He had eight points in a 10-2 culver run that cut the game to 32-29 with a minute to go, but Culver was unable to get a stop and Zionsville closed it at the free throw line.
Weidner led Zionsville with 14 points while Scales had 13.
The next night, the Eagles traveled south to face New Albany in a non-conference match-up.
Zionsville lost 50-42 to drop to 2-2 on the season.
The Eagles led by two at the end of the quarter and were tied at the half.
Zionsville out-scored the Bulldogs 11-9 in the third quarter to take a two-point lead, but the hosts started the fourth quarter on a 6-0 spurt to take the lead.
The Eagles led 35-33 with 4:30 to go, but New Albany used another 6-0 run to take the lead and pulled away later with free throws.
Ben Weidner and Jackson Hughes each had 13 points to lead the Eagles.
Anthony Scales added 10.
The Eagles will host Franklin Central on Friday night in Hoosier Crossroads Conference action, then travel to Anderson Saturday night.