ROCHESTER — If the theory behind a zone defense is to limit dribble penetration, close down passing lanes, enhance rebounding position and force perimeter shooting, then Rex Reinholt’s Rochester Zebras proved it soundly Tuesday night.
Caston looked to beat Rochester for the third consecutive year and keep its recent success rolling. But coming off a 29-point thrashing at the hands of their conference and county rival Tippecanoe Valley last Friday night, the inspired Zebras led from the tip and cooled off Caston, 53-42.
Caston (7-6) had won three straight but dropped just the second contest in its last seven. Rochester improved to 4-6.
Both teams looked tight at the start. But senior forward Alec Gehrich scored consecutive baskets to give Rochester a 12-5 lead after the first period.
After a 3 by Eli Douglass to start the second, Rochester went on a devastating 11-0 run, finished off with two free throws by 6-4 senior Luke Cannedy.
Rochester’s zone proved lethal, as Caston turned the ball over with regularity. Quentin Douglass nailed a 3 at the buzzer to limit the damage, and keep the Comets within 11 at the half.
The lead went to 14 after a Gehrich layup and Cannedy free throw opened the third quarter. The puzzling zone that gave Caston fits turned into a halfcourt zone trap in the second half and seemed to further unravel J.R. Howell’s squad.
Forcing a perimeter attack, the Zebra defenders began to routinely pick off errant Comet passes. A Graham Rentschler 3 cut the lead to 30-20 at the 1:25 mark. But Cannedy shook loose for a layup and Carter Screeton hit two free throws after a Jake Kingery foul with 1 second on the clock.
In the typical grinding style that has defined this rivalry in recent years, free throws would play a huge role in the finish, as both teams reached the double bonus by the 4:40 mark of the fourth. Caston’s last real hope came after Brayton Jellison’s free throw at the mid-point of the quarter, which drew the deficit to 7.
Rochester cashed in at the line, led by Screeton who hit six crucial free throws in the period.
Gehrich led the balanced Zebras with 14 points, followed by Cannedy with 12, and Screeton with 11.
Douglass led Caston with a game-high 18 points, including 15 in the second half.
Caston returns home this Saturday against North White.
- Jason Herd
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