• Val T.

Caston boys basketball preview: Athletic, experienced Comets return top 5 scorers

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

The Caston boys basketball team had a five-game losing streak in December of last season.

They had a six-game losing streak in February.

But they also had a four-game winning streak at the most important time of the season: March. Wins over South Newton, Tri-County and North White during sectionals week gave them their second straight sectional title and their eighth in school history.

The season would end with a loss to Triton in two overtimes in the regional semifinals.

Caston’s record over the last two seasons is 23-27, but their record in postseason games is 5-1.

In a season in which most teams hope for a return to normal, Caston might be raising the stakes on normal.

They return their top five scorers – in order, Kade Zeider, Sam Smith, Bryce Rudicel, Joey Spin and Jake Paschen – from last year.

“We have six seniors, so these are kids we’ve been seeing play for the last four or five years back to junior high,” Caston coach Carl Davis said. “But there are some guys that are going to have to step up and play a little different role than they did last year. I think that’s part of the fun, seeing kids search those new roles out and compete every day in practice to try to fill them.”

Davis, who is in his fifth season at Caston, was asked if this is the most athletic team he’s coached.

“I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Davis said.

Caston’s team scoring average dropped from 50.6 points per game two years ago to 45.3 last year.

Caston was 9-9 when they scored 40 or more points in a game last year. They were 1-7 when they scored fewer than 40.

When they averaged 50.6 ppg two years ago, it marked just the second time since 2003 they had averaged more than 50 ppg. With their top five scorers back, could this be the third? And can they avoid those offensive droughts that often cost them?

“I think the biggest thing is we just have to stay aggressive,” Davis said. “Last year, because of some of those inconsistencies, we had guys that were shifting in and out of roles. I think sometimes with that, there was some hesitation, and I think that as a coach, I didn’t do as good of a job as I needed to do in making sure we were playing confident. I think that’s a big thing. If you watched us later in the year in the sectional and the regional, we just had guys that got aggressive and really understood their role and bought into their role. I think that’s a big part of it.”

Davis said players have worked on diversifying their skills. Spin, a point guard known for penetrating to the basket, has worked on his outside shot. Zeider, a shooting guard known for his 3-point accuracy, has worked on driving to the basket. Smith, a post player, has worked on finishing around the rim.

Rudicel is a long-armed defender who can step into passing lanes. And once he gets steals, he causes opponents problems in the open floor, according to Davis. He’s even worked on his post-up moves offensively.

“Bryce had an incredible offseason,” Davis said. “He’s been absolutely everything we’ve had. He showed in flashes last year how good he is when he’s aggressive. I think that’s something this offseason that he’s continued. He’s played aggressive all offseason. His ability to create turnovers and get deflections is definitely a strength for him, and I think ... you started to see it a little bit in the sectional last year especially, but when he gets in the open court, he’s really tough to stop. He’s just attacking the rim really hard for us right now.”

Paschen “shot at a really high rate” last year and has also impressed with his passing, according to Davis.

Grant Hickle is the team’s sixth senior and has become a much improved defender, according to Davis.

“He just reacts really well to the basketball,” Davis said.

Among the team’s juniors, Colby Pugh is “so explosive getting to the rim” and is known for being a quick, athletic defender, according to Davis. Cain Schanlaub is a 6-4 junior whose length and athleticism is “going to be a huge factor defensively” while also working on his physical strength to finish through and over people and become more of a factor offensively. He sees Schanlaub and Smith working as a high-low combination.

Evan Howard, Caleb Stinson and Talon Zeider are listed on both the JV and varsity rosters.

Caston Comets schedule

Nov. 23 – at Lakeland Christian, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 1 – vs. Lewis Cass, 7:30 p.m. (Cass County Invitational quarterfinal)

Dec. 4 – vs. Logansport or Pioneer, TBD (at Cass County Invitational at Logansport)

Dec. 10 – at Carroll (Flora), 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 11 – vs. Frontier, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 17 – vs. Knox, 8 p.m.

Dec. 28-29 – at Miami County Invitational

Jan. 7 – vs. Culver, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 8 – at Delphi, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 15 – vs. West Central, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 18 – at Rochester, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 21 – at Winamac, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 28 – vs. Pioneer, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 29 – at Northfield, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 3 – vs. North White, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 5 – vs. Triton, 2:30 p.m.

Feb. 8 – at Argos, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 11 – vs. North Judson, 8 p.m.

Feb. 15 – at Lewis Cass, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 18 – at LaVille, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 24 – vs. North Miami, 7:30 p.m.

March 1-5 – Class 1A, Sectional 52 at Tri-County



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