Caston girls basketball preview: Lady Comets have wins but hungry for trophies
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The Caston girls basketball team has won 33 games in coach Josh Douglass’ two years on the job after winning just 11 games in the two years before he took over.
They are also the two-time reigning Miami County Champions.
But even with all the wins, those Miami County titles are the only trophies they have won the last two years.
Last year, they went 5-2 and tied for second in the Hoosier North with Knox and Triton. They made it to the sectional final before losing to nemesis and eventual regional champion North White.
With three returning starters back in Isabel Scales, Addison Zimpleman and Bailey Harness, Caston knows what they have left to accomplish.
“Not satisfied with what happened last year,” Douglass said of his players. “They’re hungry. They’re hungry.”
Scales, a 5-8 junior guard, suffered a knee injury during volleyball season, but Douglass said there was no structural damage and they will need to “manage” the injury for awhile. She will have enough completed practices in order to be eligible for Thursday’s season opener against Argos.
Scales could see less time on the point this year and more time at shooting guard.
“It’s got to be both,” Douglass said when asked if he needs Scales to score or be a playmaker on offense. “We’ve been doing a lot in practice, and tonight out here, I took her off the ball a lot more, and she wants to go to the ball, which is OK because she can set people up and look for things. But her shot has gotten so much better, so being able to take her off the ball and run some of the action for her, she’s got to be able to do both.”
Zimpleman, Scales’ 5-6 backcourt partner, has expanded her skill set over two years.
“She’s a great defensive player to begin with, and usually she gets the task of guarding the other girl, but she’s running the point a little bit more tonight, and that’s the reason,” Douglass said. “Because she can create and she can pass for everybody too, and she sees the floor. … She’s going to be at the point a little bit more for us this year, so we can create stuff for Isabel on the back side and some other girls too.”
Harness, a 5-8 forward, could be a key to the frontcourt after the graduations of Maddi Smith and Abby Williamson.
“I don’t know if you can say we have a designated post player,” Douglass said. “We’re all going to play every position. We’re going to move Bel (Scales) in. Bailey will be in. Bailey will be on a wing. We’re going to keep mixing them up and doing things like that.
“But the big thing from Bailey is I need her to bring increased scoring and look to take those shots like she was tonight.”
Beside Harness, the team’s other senior is Kinzie Mollenkopf, who filled a greater role after foreign exchange student Laura Dammermann returned to Germany just prior to Christmas last year. Mollenkopf could be at her most effective when the opponent is playing a zone defense.
“Kinzie has always been the girl that does all our dirty work for us,” Douglass said. “She’s the type of player that every team will love because she’s in the middle of our offense everywhere. One thing that Kinzie doesn’t get enough credit for is her ability to pass. And that’s why she’s in the middle of our offense a lot. … She reads the floor and knows where her kicks are. And she plays tremendous post defense.”
In addition to Scales and Zimpleman, other juniors include 5-4 guard Annie Harsh and 5-6 guard Macee Hinderlider.
“They both bring different things to the table,” Douglass said. “They’re both going to help tremendously. Annie can shoot the ball quite a little bit. Macee can play great defense. One thing about Macee is she’s long and athletic as can be. … I’m going to need her defensively, and she can get up. She can rebound if she commits to it.”
Sophomore newcomers on the varsity include 5-8 forward Olivia Thomas and 5-9 forward Kaitlyn Hutsell.
“I’ve joked (that) if I can combine them, I’d have an Indiana All-Star,” Douglass said. “Because Olivia can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court, and Katie blocks almost every shot that’s taken near her. And Olivia can actually handle the ball fairly well. They’ve just got to get stronger and just get ready for this physical play that varsity is compared to JV.”
Those who get minutes will get them because of a commitment to defense. Caston has decreased their defensive scoring average four straight years – from 49 points per game in 2018 to 48 in 2019 to 45 in 2020 to 41 in 2021 to 39 last year.
“We’re going to mix it up a little bit more,” Douglass said. “I’m typically straight man, and we’re still going to play a lot of man, but we’re going to mix in zone more. Defensively is my question mark this year. I think offensively we can be better than what we’ve been just because we can spread the court a lot better this year, and everybody can handle the ball for the most part too when you spread the court.
“To be able to tell you if we are going to be more man or zone, ask me around Christmas.”
The schedule starts with a five-game-in-10-day stretch against Argos, Rochester, Peru, North White and Winamac. It also includes a stretch of four conference games – North Judson, Triton, Pioneer and Knox – in nine days from Dec. 8-16.
Caston’s final three regular season games are against defending sectional champions Carroll (Flora) and North Miami before a home game against Class 3A Bremen.
Nov. 3 – vs. Argos, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 5 – at Rochester, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 8 – at Peru, 7:45 p.m.
Nov. 11 – vs. North White, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 12 – vs. Winamac, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 15 – at Rossville, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 21 – vs. Frontier, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 29 – vs. Lewis Cass, 6 p.m. (Cass County Invitational semifinal)
Dec. 3 – at Cass County Invitational at Logansport
Dec. 8 – at North Judson, 8 p.m.
Dec. 10 – vs. Triton, 2:30 p.m.
Dec. 13 – vs. Pioneer, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 16 – vs. Knox, 6:30 p.m.
Dec. 28-29 – at Miami County Invitational
Jan. 3 – at Clinton Central, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 5 – vs. Culver, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 7 – at LaVille, 2:30 p.m.
Jan. 14 – at Tri-County, 12:30 p.m.
Jan. 19 – at North Miami, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 24 – at Carroll (Flora), 6 p.m.
Jan. 26 – vs. Bremen, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 31-Feb. 4 – Class 1A, Sectional 52 at Tri-County
Class 1A, Sectional 52
Caston, Frontier, North White, South Newton, Tri-County, West Central