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February 22, 2014

Comets fall out of MWC race with loss at Tri-County

WOLCOTT — Friday’s matchup in Wolcott between Tri-County and Caston had its share of storylines.

Both teams entered with similar records at 10-6 and 11-7, respectively. J.R. Howell’s team was looking to capitalize on two dramatic wins over Maconaquah and North White last weekend and shake the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde disparity between their sparkling 10-1 home record and 1-6 road record.

A win Friday would mean an opportunity to claim at least a share of the Midwest Conference title at Winamac Tuesday. The Cavaliers started the season 6-0, with three of those victories coming in extra sessions. Since Dec. 21, Tyler Scherer’s group has cooled off a bit, going 4-6 in that stretch.

The Comets mounted a furious third-quarter comeback after a 16-point deficit. But much like the snow covered fields of western White County, a fourth-quarter meltdown flooded the Comets, as they fell to Tri-County 62-49.

After jumping out to a quick 5-0 lead following Brayton Jellison’s 3 in the first, things started to look bleak for Caston. The Cavaliers used second-chance points and free throws to fuel a 14-3 run to close the period, and enjoyed a 22-12 lead. Zack Patton led the way for Tri-County, scoring four of his nine first-quarter points from the line.

A pivotal play opened the second quarter, as Patton was intentionally fouled by Jellison on a 3 attempt and cashed in at the stripe. The ensuing possession saw the Cavaliers open a 16-point lead as fellow senior Kyle Miller drilled a 3 at the 7:14 mark. Fullcourt pressure rattled the Comets, with their senior leader Quentin Douglass on the bench with early foul trouble. Howell made the choice to bring Douglass back in shortly after and it paid off initially. The Comet point guard slashed the Cavalier defense, scoring three consecutive buckets to cut the lead to eight. Miller answered with two devastating 3s to close the half, and extended Tri-County’s lead back to 14.

Caston opened the third with a vengeance, behind consecutive treys by Dustin Offenberger and Jellison. Junior Jake Kingery scored on a layup, and was followed by a bucket and-one by Douglass to cut the lead to one. Caston took its first lead since the opening minutes after two Offenberger free throws. The junior scored 13 points in the game.

The surge didn’t stop there, as Offenberger scored again on the and-one, followed by Douglass’ swipe and layup to extend their lead to six. Douglass led Caston with 17 points.

With Caston now the aggressors, using fullcourt pressure to unravel Tri-County, it was again Miller who answered the call. The senior sharpshooter dialed up two more huge 3s to keep his team alive, ending the Comets’ 20-0 run in the period. He finished the night with 17 points for the Cavaliers.

Fellow senior Patton followed suit, finishing the quarter with a three of his own and two more free throws to take the lead back at 49-46.

The Comets continued to get a full dose of Patton in the fourth, mostly from the line.  He finished with a game-high 28 points, including 16 from the foul line.

Arguably, the key play in the game came midway through the period with Caston down just four points. During a break in action, Miller appeared to enter Caston’s court huddle and was consequently shoved out by Offenberger, which resulted in a technical foul, and his fifth of the game. The unfortunate play resulted in a four-point swing, and the Cavaliers’ lead jumped to eight.

“We used a lot of energy to make this a game again in the second half. I believe that had an effect on our state of mind and we made some errors down the stretch because we were tired,” Howell said. “I don’t think we kept our composure as a team very well, and that’s disappointing.”

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