By Jason Herd For the Pharos-Tribune
---- — FULTON — After Caston’s Feb. 18 home game against Taylor was cancelled for the second time, Culver was recently penciled in for a visit to Fulton Thursday night.
The Comets had lost five straight games to the Cavaliers, with their last win coming in November of 2003. Culver’s season got off to a hot start, winning seven out of eight games with quality wins over North Judson and Winamac to start the year, and the Cavaliers entered the game at 12-6. They are led by 6-4 senior guard Trent Elliott, who averages 23 points per game and has signed to play at NCAA Division II Fairmont State (WV) next year.
J.R. Howell’s Comets fell out of the hunt for a Midwest Conference title with two straight losses to Tri-County and Winamac but looked to right the ship before hosting a sectional for the first time in 11 years. Despite the recent stumble, Caston improved their sparkling home record to 11-1 with a solid 56-51 victory on senior night over Culver.
The future Hoosier North Conference rivals traded blows in the first, which included two treys by Cavalier sophomore Everett Krueger. Comet junior Dustin Offenberger matched Krueger’s output with six points of his own. Quentin Douglass drove the lane and scored as time expired in the first to tie at 10-10, which was the first of three key possessions that resulted in points at the end of periods.
Caston took its first lead of the game on Graham Rentschler’s stickback to begin the second, followed by another Douglass layup. Hounded by Douglass and Alex Howdeshell, Elliott finally got on the board with a bucket mid-way through the period. Despite a notable size disadvantage, Caston got second opportunities routinely, and tracked down loose balls. The Comets outrebounded Culver 20-17, including nine offensive boards. Krueger scored with under two minutes to play to regain the lead, but freshman Eli Douglass nailed a corner 3 as time expired to put the Comets back up 20-18 at the half.
The Comets found their range from outside and began clicking in the third. Douglass opened the period with a 3, followed by Jake Kingery and Brayton Jellison hitting from deep. Rattled and clearly uncomfortable with Caston’s physicality, Elliott picked up his fourth foul with three seconds left in the period, and went to the bench. Like the end of the prior two periods, Caston got timely baskets with the clock winding down as Rentschler connected from 3 as time expired and held a 38-32 lead going into the final quarter.
Caston took its largest lead of the game at 11 with 2:19 left, behind a 6-0 run fueled by Jellison, Douglass and Rentschler. Elliott re-entered at the 3:55 mark but never got on track. He finished with just six points in the game. The Cavaliers were led by Krueger with a game-high 24 points, including four 3s.
The Comets were led by Offenberger with 15, followed by Douglass scoring 14.
“We looked at this game as if it were a sectional matchup. Culver is the type of team we will face in the tournament,” Howell said. “We tried to limit Elliott’s touches, and I thought we did an excellent job on him with several different players.”
Howell also commented on his seniors, adding “Nate [Cousins] comes in and works hard everyday and is a real asset to our team. I know I’m always going to get effort from him.”
Said Cousins: “Its been awesome playing with this group this year, especially after not playing last season. Coach Howell cares about his players and is always interacting with us.”
There are only three players in Caston history that have played in more games than Quentin Douglass’ current mark of 87. There are also only three players that have scored more points than his current 1,181. A starter since his freshman year, the senior slasher has won 57 games as a Comet. His journey to capture his first sectional title begins next Friday against the winner of West Central and Tri-County.
“It feels great to win our last home game. I can’t describe the way my teammates played tonight,” he said.