- Val T.
‘Those girls battle:’ Smith scores 24 as Caston beats Rochester for second straight year
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
FULTON –- The Caston girls basketball team beat Rochester last year, but due to COVID-related restrictions, it occurred in front of very few witnesses.
The world got to see how good Caston is on Saturday. The world got to see Maddi Smith take over in the second half.
Smith scored 10 of her career-high 24 points in the fourth quarter, and Isabel Scales added 10 points as the host Lady Comets beat the Lady Zs 42-37.
Smith scored 13 of Caston’s 18 points in the second half to help the Lady Comets improve to 2-0.
They won even though starting guard Addison Zimpleman was away from the team at a travel softball tournament.
Caston scored 50 points in a season-opening win against Argos on Thursday, but no player had more than 12. On the other hand, this game was all about Smith.
Douglass was coy about revealing any coaching advice he might have given Smith.
“Tonight she hit her layups, didn’t she?” Caston coach Josh Douglass said. “We’ve been practicing on that. We gave her a couple little hints. I won’t give those away. But she’s been working hard. All these girls have been working hard in practice. They get after each other. They have each other’s backs. They pick each other up when they’re not doing well. And they just continue to fight out there.”
Reserves Kennedy Jackson and Kallie Watson scored 13 and 10 points, respectively, to lead Rochester (1-1).
Rochester junior point guard Emma Howdeshell suffered an apparent right knee injury with 2:54 left in the first half and did not return. Millie Scorsone was called for a technical foul with 2:08 left in the half and was removed from the game and did not return, per team policy. And all-TRC post player Lexy Thomas picked up three first-half fouls and had her minutes limited.
Rochester had trimmed what had been a 10-point deficit down to 29-28 on a 3-pointer from Watson from the right corner.
Caston coach Josh Douglass called timeout with 4:58 left.
Smith drove from the right elbow for a layup to make it 31-28. She scored on a post banker, turning to the baseline and scoring around Lexy Thomas to push the lead to five.
Rochester would get back to within 33-31 on a Thomas bucket in the left post and a Watson free throw.
But Smith would score again in the post after a Bailey Harness steal.
Leading 35-32, Smith missed the front end of a one-and-one from the line with 1:11 left. But a scramble for the loose ball resulted in a held ball. The arrow pointed towards Caston. And Smith took the subsequent inbounds pass and drove in for a layup.
Sydney Haughs hit a 3 for Rochester, who then called timeout with 50.5 seconds left.
Scales hit two free throws to make it 39-35 with 40.5 seconds left.
Jackson answered with a driving layup with 28.2 seconds left.
But Smith was clutch again when she hit two free throws with 20.5 seconds left to make it 41-37. An Abby Williamson free throw with 3.0 seconds left completed the scoring.
Smith said she worked on her post moves and not being scared of contact.
“Honestly I was,” Smith said when asked if she was surprised by her scoring output. “But I guess all of the work that we put in as a team over the summer and going hard against each other in practice helped me. … I had the hard post going up against me, so I feel like I’d like to thank my teammates for that.”
Smith also scored six points as part of a game-opening 13-3 run. It took less than four minutes for Thomas to pick up two fouls.
Thomas’ foul trouble forced Rochester to switch defenses from man-to-man to zone.
“We knew we were going to have some matchup problems with them trying to play our man,” Rochester coach Brian Jennings said. “But we wanted to give it another try. We didn’t want to abandon man defense. You know, Game 2, we played it pretty well. The kids have some confidence in it. But when Lex got that second foul and we had to go with both Kennedy and Millie in the game at the same time, that really slows down our man defense, and they really took advantage of that.
“So we decided to go to a zone. I thought about going to a zone prior to the game because I didn’t really feel that Caston were great shooters from the outside. They had a couple but not that many. So once we got into the zone, I was really proud of our girls because we stayed in our man-to-man principles. We still got up in the gaps and tried to help stop that penetration, but the one girl at the post player, when we step up and stop that penetration, it left her one-on-one at the post, and she did an excellent job down at the post for Caston tonight and just ate us up.”
Also, Caston switched whenever Rochester set a high ball screen. It was the job for players like Harness and Smith to guard whoever was screening them while their teammate guarded the player who was supposed to get open because of the screen.
“We’re not very big, but our arms don’t fit our bodies,” Douglass said. “They’re longer than our bodies out there, and we’re sneaky long. It gets our hands on rebounds, and we just battle. Those girls battle.”
Rochester got back within 15-11 on a Jackson free throw and a Watson 3-pointer, but Smith drove from the right elbow for two and then hit a trey from the left wing to get the lead back to nine.
Scales answered a Jackson bucket, and the lead was back to 10 at 23-13.
Caston led 24-18 at halftime, and they still led 29-20 on a Smith foul shot with 3:09 left in the third quarter.
That’s when Rochester worked their way back in the game. A Jackson spin move resulted in a 3-point play to make it 29-23 with 5.0 seconds left in the quarter.
A Thomas post layup made it 29-25 to start the fourth. Watson, who had taken over primary ballhandling duties while also playing the top of Rochester’s 2-3 zone defense in Howdeshell’s absence, then hit her trey.
“She got thrown into that ballhandling situation when Emma went down, and I thought she did a pretty good job out there,” Jennings said. “That’s a lot of pressure to take that over, especially with the defense that Caston is putting on.”
But Smith and the determined Lady Comets would not let Rochester ever take the lead. She called Zimpleman a “big asset” to the team but also said they found different ways to play without her.
“Everyone that we’ve heard talking was like, ‘Well, they beat us last year because it was a fluke, and we didn’t have the crowd,’” Smith said. “And all this other stuff. But no, it was just because we fought through and we did what we had to do to be able to win.”
In the JV game, Rochester prevailed 25-24 behind Rylee Clevenger’s 15 points. Darah Strasser had four, Savanah Eccles had three, Elizabeth Weaver had two, and Audrey Bolinger had one.
Alexa Finke scored nine points, and Macee Hinderlider had eight for Caston. Maddie Sprow had three, and Olivia Thomas and Annie Harsh had two each.
Caston 42, Rochester 37
ROCHESTER (37) (1-1)
Kami Burkett 0 0-0 0, Rily Holloway 1 0-0 3, Emma Howdeshell 0 0-0 0, Lexy Thomas 3 0-0 6, Millie Scorsone 1 0-0 2, Kallie Watson 3 1-2 10, Sydney Haughs 1 0-0 3, Maddie Heinzmann 0 0-0 0, Kennedy Jackson 5 3-5 13
TEAM: 14 4-7 37
CASTON (42) (2-0)
Isabel Scales 3 3-5 10, Brianna Yarber 1 0-0 2, Bailey Harness 0 0-2 0, Maddi Smith 9 5-7 24, Abby Williamson 1 1-2 4, Laura Dammermann 0 0-0 0, Kinzie Mollenkopf 1 0-0 2
TEAM: 15 9-16 42
Three-point field goals:
Rochester 5 (Watson 3, Holloway, Haughs),
Caston 3 (Smith, Scales, Williamson)
Total fouls: Rochester 20, Caston 11
Turnovers: Rochester 21, Caston 14
Score by quarters
Rochester 7 11 5 14 – 37
Caston 15 9 5 13 – 42
JV: Rochester 25, Caston 24
Watch entire game here:
Caston's Maddi Smith Rochester's Kallie Watson