Caston girls basketball preview:
Lady Comets return 3 starters, but can softball state experience transfer to hoops?
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
About to begin his fourth season, Caston’s Josh Douglass is already the dean of Hoosier North girls basketball coaches.
While that might seem a short time for him to already be the most tenured coach in the conference, much of Caston’s basketball fortunes have already changed.
Caston lost 19 games the season before he arrived. They have lost just 17 games in the three seasons combined since he’s been coach.
Caston also did a program first last year, winning the Hoosier North title with an undefeated 7-0 record. Of their conference wins, six were by double-digit margins.
But it’s also true that Caston went 1-3 after a 19-0 start to the season, and it ended with an overtime loss to North White in the Class 1A, Sectional 52 semifinals.
With Bethel University recruit Isabel Scales, already a member of the 1,000-point club before her junior year ended, joining returning starters Addison Zimpleman and Macee Hinderlider, Caston might have a leg up on its foes going into the season.
But they also have two spots in the starting lineup to fill following the graduations of Bailey Harness and Kinzie Mollenkopf.
“You can’t ever replace somebody, especially when you lose two girls like that,” Douglass said. “They can’t be replaced. What you hope is you find players that can step up when it’s their turn now. I always say as a coach, it’s a big jigsaw puzzle, and you’re trying to put the pieces that work the best together.”
Douglass also dealt with an obstacle, though one he hardly minded, during the traditional summer hoops season in June. The Caston softball team reached the state finals, and Scales, Zimpleman, Hinderlider and other seniors-to-be Annie Harsh and Alexa Finke also start on the softball team.
Still, they were able to play 12 to 13 kids at D1 camp in Fort Wayne.
“Our summer was cut a little bit short with the success of softball, which is always good,” Douglass said. “Really, our summer basketball turned into three weeks instead of the month of June, which is OK, because I don’t touch them in July. I let them have July. They’ve still got to be kids. … Overall, the summer was a success for as short as it was.”
Scales, a position-less player who can score both in the post and from the perimeter, already has 1,019 career points.
“She needs to stay aggressive,” Douglass said. “That’s probably what I would say is my biggest knock on her is that she doesn’t stay aggressive at times, and she needs to stay aggressive all game because if she’s looking for her shot and hunting for her shot, that’s going to open more things up for everybody else. I think she averaged 17 a game last year. I hope she can be around 20 to 22 this time. But I also hope the supporting cast around her can also help chip in a few more points too.”
He also wants a Zimpleman, a Purdue Fort Wayne softball commit, to average between 12 to 16 points per game. Like Scales, she is a four-year varsity starter.
“She can do that,” Douglass said. “She’s just another girl that her ballhandling probably over the years has grown tremendously – seeing the court, passing. It’s amazing from freshman year to senior how much stronger they are.”
As for Hinderlider, Douglass does not doubt her effort or desire. It’s now a matter of refining the nuances to her game.
“One thing you’re going to get from Macee is 100 percent effort al all times to the fact that she wears herself out, which is unbelievable,” Douglass said. “Macee’s got to learn that in softball and volleyball, you go really fast all the time. In basketball, you’ve got to change that speed. And that’s what I love about that kid. She goes so hard. What we’re working on with her is when she goes so hard is staying under control. That way, she can control her body because she’s so athletic that sometimes her body gets ahead of her feet, so she’s off-balance a lot when she’s taking shots. … I expect big things from Macee this year. I’m excited to watch her play. One thing that I would really like to see her do is rebound this year. She can get up so high, and obviously, we don’t have a ton of size, so her ability to jump is going to help us out.”
Harsh’s job is to take care of the ball when it’s in her hands and to knock down open shots when she gets the opportunity.
“She can score, but it’s a certain ability when that ball comes to her, she meets it and she steps right into her shot, and most of the time, she’s going to make that shot when it comes to her,” Douglass said.
Finke, a forward with inside and outside skills, has returned to basketball after not playing last year. Douglass raves about her athleticism.
“She’s going to be a great asset to us,” Douglass said. “Another one that’s long, athletic, quick. Quick feet is what I call it. She can get down and up real fast. Strong rebounder, and she knows the game of basketball too, and that helps us tremendously. It gives us more depth.”
Douglass said Olivia Thomas, who split time between JV and varsity last year, will be full-time varsity this year. Katie Hutsell is another junior who provides rebounding.
Autumn Miller, Kylee Logan, Jaded Aguilar and Camila Hernandez-Rios, whose standout trait according to Douglass is her quickness on defense, are among the sophomores in the program.
Of the varsity newcomers, freshman point guard Madi Douglass will start the year on the varsity.
“My daughter will go to varsity,” Douglass said. “Her skill set is definitely the capability of being there to play.”
Grace Wright, who will be the JV point guard, and Natalie Warner, a post and a move-in from Brownsburg, are two other freshmen in the program.
Defensively, Caston cut their defensive average from 38.5 two years ago to 33.5 last year, and they went 9-0 in games in which they held their opponent under 30 points.
Douglass said versatility is this team’s defensive strength.
“We’re going to mix up man, zone, 1-3-1, 2-1-2 trap,” Douglass said. “We’re going to do a lot of different things, so we’re going to see how well they can mix it up this year. … I think I have the athletes to do it this year.”
And not only do they have the versatility, but they have the experience on a statewide stage, albeit in softball and not basketball. A sectional title is seemingly all that remains left to accomplish for the seniors. Caston has not won a girls basketball sectional title since 1985.
“I think it’s huge because I think after they broke through last year winning the sectional in softball, you saw a whole different team and a whole different demeanor from those girls,” Douglass said. “They were more relaxed. And I saw it in volleyball too against the Southwood team. Southwood is tremendous in volleyball watching them. They’re in the (state finals) this weekend, and the way our girls fought, they’ve always fought. They were not fazed. I thought they gave a tremendous amount of effort. They were just better.
“To me, that shows carrying over into basketball, we’re going to fight until the end, which we’ve always done. But I feel like we might be a little more relaxed, which is a good thing. I think last year we got tight, especially when shots didn’t fall. … Now I think if shots don’t fall, I don’t think we’ll get tight. I think we’ll stay relaxed knowing, hey, we’re going to do this because now they’ve experienced it and made that run, they know what it’s like. They felt it. They know how to keep fighting. They know how to get through that barrier now of when things aren’t going your way to find a way to win.”
Alanie Hipsher (nee Sroufe), a 2012 Rochester grad who currently teaches English at Caston Junior High, is new to Douglass’ staff. Blake Harness and Samantha Schanlaub also return to the staff.
Caston added Class 1A semistate champion Bethany Christian to the schedule, and they replace Clinton Central. Caston will host Bethany Christian on Jan. 12 and then will have to host defending sectional champion Tri-County the following afternoon.
Also, the Frontier game was pushed back by a month, which means Caston will have a 15-day break between the Rossville game at home on Nov. 14 and a game against Lewis Cass to start the Cass County Tournament on Nov. 29.
Caston has only one home game in December but five home games in January.
South Newton will host the sectional from Jan. 30-Feb. 3.
Class 1A, Sectional 52
CASTON, Frontier, North White, South Newton, Tri-County, West Central
Nov. 2 – at Argos, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 4 – vs. Rochester, 7 p.m.
Nov. 7 – vs. Peru, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 10 – at North White, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 11 – at Winamac, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 14 – vs. Rossville, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 29-Dec. 2 – Cass County Tournament (field includes Lewis Cass, Pioneer, Logansport)
Dec. 7 – vs. North Judson, 8 p.m.
Dec. 9 – at Triton, 2:30 p.m.
Dec. 12 – at Pioneer, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 15 – at Knox, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 21 – at Frontier, 6:30 p.m.
Dec. 27-28 – at Miami County Invitational (field includes Maconaquah, North Miami, Peru)
Jan. 4 – at Culver, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 6 – vs. LaVille, 2:30 p.m.
Jan. 12 – vs. Bethany Christian, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 13 – vs. Tri-County, 12:30 p.m.
Jan. 18 – vs. North Miami, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 23 – vs. Carroll (Flora), 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 25 – at Bremen, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 30-Feb. 3 – Class 1A, Sectional 52 at South Newton