by Beau Wicker
WINONA LAKE — Caston’s boys basketball team jumped out to a double-digit lead and was in control early Tuesday night at Lakeland Christian Academy.
But the Cougars made a run at the end of the first half to get back into it, and the Comets found themselves in a dogfight throughout the entire second half.
Letting the Cougars back in it backfired for the Comets. LCA’s Billy Pitts drilled a 27-footer as time expired to lift the Cougars to a 50-47 win over the Comets in a season-opening game.
Quentin Douglass, who scored 19 points for the Comets, had a shot hit back-iron with 3 seconds remaining that would have gave Caston the lead. The Comets held the ball for over a minute to try to get the last shot.
The Cougars grabbed the rebound and were able to advance the ball to their end of the court, calling timeout with 1.0 second to go. Pitts took the inbounds pass at the volleyball line and his last-second shot hit nothing but net, and LCA’s bandbox of a gym erupted after the team recorded what was most likely the biggest win in program history.
“Good shot, whether he hits it or not, we didn’t deserve to win. They deserved it much more than we did,” Caston coach Ben Snyder lamented.
“We looked like we were in the middle of a summer open gym. It was just ‘play basketball.’ ... I can’t say I’ve seen something quite like that. But give them credit, too.”
LCA is a first-year IHSAA program and went 2-19 a year ago.
“I think if it would’ve been someone else it probably would’ve been 30, so we’re probably fortunate we played them,” Snyder said.
The Cougars did have a size advantage against the Comets, and 6-foot-7 senior Calvin Prinsen made a big impact in the paint and finished with 12 points and 12 boards to lead them. Chris Maron also had 12 points, and Pitts added eight.
Jake Howdeshell led the Comets with 22 points. Corey Moss chipped in six.
Caston shot 36 percent from both the field overall and the 3-point line. Eight of the Comets’ 13 field goals in the game were 3-pointers. Caston outscored LCA 13-3 at the foul line, but committed 16 turnovers.
Caston looks to be a Midwest Conference and sectional contender again this season, so it certainly wasn’t the start Snyder was looking for.
“I want to give them a lot of credit. They pounded the ball inside and shot well [50 percent,]” Snyder said.
Caston jumped out to a 15-4 lead in the first seven minutes of the game. The lead got to as big as 26-13 after a Howdeshell 3-pointer, his fifth of the game at that point. But that would be his last trey of the game.
Caston led 30-18 with two minutes left in the first half before LCA closed with a quick 9-0 run that made it 30-27 at the break. The second half was back and forth with five ties and nine lead changes.
Snyder took the loss against his ex-teammate at Grace College, LCA coach Lee Compson. Grace is located just down the road from LCA.
“Ben and I both played at Grace College 10 years ago, he was a freshmen, I was a senior,” Compson said. “I have so much respect for him and their team. We have a size advantage on them, but they played us toe-to-toe and were really tough, making it really tough for us to get inside buckets even with a size advantage.”
The Cougars are trying to make a good first impression in the IHSAA.
“We were really gunning for this year to be the year we put it all together, even three years ago, my first year. This was my goal, and hopefully this is the start of something good,” Compson said. “I knew it, seeing these guys work over the summer, seeing them play and come together. It was just a matter of putting it into reality, and now hopefully other people will know and we’ll show the area we’re on the right track.”
The Comets will try to get back on the right track next week when they’ll face Pioneer at the Cass County Tournament on Tuesday at the Berry Bowl.