by Jason Herd
The annual Caston Shootout hosts teams scattered throughout the state, ranging from 1A to 4A schools. With weather postponing Thursday’s matchups, the tournament was condensed to get all of the games in Friday and Saturday.
The Caston Comets opened their bracket with 2A Central Noble from Albion. The Cougars entered the contest 0-6, coming off of a 5-16 season a year ago under head coach Brett Burroughs.
Both teams were hungry for a victory, and it certainly showed on the court. The Comets weathered a fierce comeback from the Cougars in the fourth quarter and held on for a 57-53 win.
After taking a 15-12 lead into the second, Caston stretched the lead to 14, fueled by two 3s from freshman Eli Douglass. Central Noble freshman Mason Smith led a late charge with two 3s of his own to cut the halftime lead to 34-24.
Despite an early basket by Quentin Douglass, the Cougars held the momentum in the third period, going on a 10-0 run to draw within 2. Sophomores Elijah Andrews and Kaleb Smith each hit 3s in that stretch.
“We gathered up midway through the third and just talked about being calm and playing our game,” Quentin Douglass said. “We got in transition and hit some tough shots down the stretch.”
Cougar senior Brock Noe hit a 3 with 3:12 remaining to give Central Noble its first lead since early in the first quarter. He struck again from long range to tie the game with 1:43 to play.
But Douglass proved too much for the Cougars to handle, as the senior scored 14 points in the quarter, including two key free throws with seconds to play. He ended the night with a game-high 27 points.
“We just need to slow down and execute better, especially when things aren’t going our way during the game,” Caston coach JR Howell said.
Caston (3-4) snapped a four-game losing streak and faces Kankakee Valley at 1 p.m. today in Shootout play. The championship and third-place games will be held at 7:30 p.m.