Highway to ‘Bel:’ Scales’ big 4th quarter helps Caston beat Pioneer, stay unbeaten
Brooke scores 12, but Lady Panthers’ 11-game Hoosier North winning streak snapped
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
FULTON — The Class 1A, No. 3 Caston girls basketball team’s defense has figured out a way to stop Pioneer in a way that no other team has.
They did it in the Cass County Invitational final at Logansport on Dec. 3, and they did it again in their Hoosier North meeting at Caston Tuesday.
As for the offense, Isabel Scales scored 14 of her game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter, and Bailey Harness added 14 points for the host Lady Comets in a 41-31 win over the Lady Panthers.
Caston improved to 12-0 overall and 4-0 in the Hoosier North going into Friday’s meeting with Knox. And while that game will be going on, Caston will be rooting for Pioneer. LaVille is the only other team unbeaten in conference play, and the Lady Lancers host Pioneer on Friday.
That will be LaVille’s last conference game before hosting Caston on Jan. 7.
Ashlynn Brooke scored 10 of her 12 points in the second half for Pioneer, who fell to 8-2, 2-1. Makenna Strycker had seven off the bench.
The loss snapped Pioneer’s two-game winning streak and their 11-game conference winning streak that started on Jan. 26, 2021.
Pioneer is 0-2 against Caston and averaging 31.5 points per game. They are 8-0 and averaging 61 points per game against all other opponents. Caston also beat Pioneer 45-32 in that Cass County Invitational game.
Caston came in allowing 29.6 points per game, which ranked them eighth in the state in defensive scoring average.
They played a box-in-one defense Tuesday. Junior guard Addison Zimpleman face-guarded Brooke with the other four Caston players in a zone. Macee Hinderlider and Harness also had stints following Brooke. When Brooke would get a step on her defender, it was a teammate’s job to help out.
Brooke averaged 39 points per game last year in two games against Caston, and Pioneer won both. She averaged 13.5 against Caston this year in two meetings.
As a team, Caston held Pioneer to one field goal in the final 12 minutes.
“Hats off to the girls,” Caston coach Josh Douglass said. “We’ve been down 20 (against Rochester) and came back this year. Nothing has fazed this team. I don’t know if people realize how good defensively we really are. We’re one of the top teams in the state. We don’t give up easy looks, and if there are easy looks, sometimes that’s by design too for the kid that’s shooting that ball. Girls have been laser-focused on our scouting reports that we’ve been giving them. … To hold Pioneer to 31 points after holding them to 32, that’s credit to them. They’re bought in on the defensive end.”
While that was going on, Scales got untracked. A power dribble and a drop step to the baseline in the post resulted in a bucket and a 28-27 Caston lead with 7:26 left. Another basket off a Kinzie Mollenkopf post entry pass made it 30-27.
Brooke scored out of the high post to cut the lead to one before Scales scored again in the post.
A Kylie Attinger free throw got Pioneer within 32-30, but Scales dropped in a 3-pointer from the right wing to push the lead to five.
Scales also made five of six free throw attempts in the fourth quarter.
“They’ve been overplaying me a lot, so I’m inside, and that opens up the outside shot a little bit more, but towards the end, I was just trying to do anything and everything to get open and be able to get the ball inside,” Scales said.
Prior to the fourth quarter, it was Pioneer’s 2-3 zone that was stifling Caston, leading to a 17-2 run covering a 10:10 span of the second and third quarters. Caston had a 10-point lead at 19-9 on a short jumper from Harness, but a Paula Collado Fernandez 3-pointer from the left corner and a Brooke steal and layup got the deficit down to 19-14 at halftime.
Brooke buried a 3-pointer from the right corner and scored again on a steal and pullup bank to wipe out the five-point halftime deficit within 31 seconds of the start of the second half.
Zimpleman’s jumper in the paint put Caston back ahead, but a Gracie Hopper bucket in transition, a Collado Fernandez 12-footer in the lane and three free throws from Brooke put Pioneer up 26-21 with 3:48 left.
“I thought our girls did a great job in the third quarter coming out and hitting some open shots,” Pioneer coach Jeff Brooke said. “In the fourth quarter, I thought we had open shots. We got some midrange jumpers that didn’t fall, had a couple 3-pointers that didn’t fall and some layups that didn’t fall. Credit our girls. I thought they did a really nice job, and just shots weren’t falling.”
Zimpleman picked up her third and fourth fouls in a 31-second span in the third quarter.
“Honestly, what got my stuff together was when Addison got that fourth foul,” Scales said. “I knew I had to pick up my game a little bit, so I was just doing everything. I just let my mind relax and played ball.”
A Harness floater along the left baseline and an off-balance Scales 3-point play tied it before a Crystabelle Blickenstaff free throw with 1:00 left gave Pioneer a 27-26 lead going into the fourth quarter.
But for the second straight meeting, Caston outscored Pioneer 15-4 in the fourth quarter.
“I think Scales did a really nice job getting in position,” coach Brooke said. “The guards did a nice job swinging the ball and getting it to her when our girls hadn’t reacted yet. And I think that was the key. That’s something we’ll have to make sure that they continue to get better at anticipating where the girls are going to go and not reacting after the girls are already posted up in there.”
In the JV game, Pioneer topped Caston 26-20 behind Mia McKaig’s 12 points and Rachel Harding’s 10. Casey Webb and Hannah Zeigler had two points each.
Kylee Logan had eight points to lead the Caston JV. Olivia Thomas added six, and Camila Hernandez-Rios and Kaitie Hutsell had three points each.
Caston 41, Pioneer 31
PIONEER (31) (8-2, 2-1)
Crystabelle Blickenstaff 0 1-2 1, Ashlynn Brooke 4 3-3 12, Gracie Hopper 2 0-0 4, Paula Collado Fernandez 2 0-0 5, Kylie Attinger 0 2-4 2, Makenna Strycker 3 1-2 7, Julia McGrew 0 0-0 0
TEAM: 11 7-11 31
CASTON (41) (12-0, 4-0)
Macee Hinderlider 0 0-0 0, Isabel Scales 6 6-7 19, Addison Zimpleman 2 0-0 5, Bailey Harness 5 1-2 14, Kinzie Mollenkopf 1 0-0 2, Annie Harsh 0 1-4 1
TEAM: 14 8-13 41
Three-point field goals:
Pioneer 2 (Brooke, Collado Fernandez),
Caston 5 (Harness 3, Scales, Zimpleman)
Total fouls: Pioneer 13, Caston 11
Turnovers: Pioneer 10, Caston 12
Score by quarters
Pioneer 7 7 13 4 – 31
Caston 12 7 7 15 – 41
JV: Pioneer 26, Caston 20