For the Pharos-Tribune

FULTON — It took 29 minutes of basketball and 61 turnovers before either squad could slow anything down.

But after Caston’s 6-6 center Kam Scott sank both ends of a double-bonus to tie the contest at 42 with 2:46 remaining, visiting West Central put together the game’s longest possession in Friday’s Midwest Conference opener for both teams.

Working more than a minute off the clock, Ryan Howat got loose for a layup to put the Trojans up 44-42.

“He played pretty well. He was able to slip some screens in there and get some nice shots,” West Central coach Bryan Heimlich said of Howat, who scored 10 of his game-high 21 points in the final frame. “Ryan did a pretty good job on the offensive end as far as getting things settled down.”

Trailing 45-42 with 40 ticks left Caston had a chance to tie, but missed a three from the corner and Kyle Evans rebounded for the Trojans. He was tied up immediately with the arrow pointing to the Comets. But Caston’s inbounds pass was swiped by Evans who fed Howat for the game’s final points in West Central’s 47-42 victory.

The Trojans (1-1) out-scored the Comets 19-7 the final eight minutes to overcome a 35-28 deficit heading into the fourth period.

“We finally got some open looks there in the fourth quarter,” Heimlich said. “The guys were just going too fast in the first three quarters. We were forcing too many things. ...But we played hard and fought back.”

Caston (1-2) fell behind 12-3 early as the hosts committed 10 miscues in the opening quarter against West Central’s full-court pressure defense.

But the Comets began to extend their own defense which resulted in a 13-0 run that surged them ahead 16-12 after Grant White buried a baseline triple with 4:41 to go in the half.

“That was definitely key for us,” Caston coach Ryan Bales said of the eight-minute stretch. “We made a run because of our defense. We started getting stops. Turnovers are going to happen, but those are things we can cure. But if the effort isn’t there on the defensive end, we’re going to have problems.”

The Comets knocked down 4-of-8 treys the first half and claimed a 22-21 advantage at intermission.

Despite not shooting well in the first two games, Bales has confidence in his players’ ability.

“I know our guys are capable,” he said. “They knock down shots in practice. It’s just a matter of making them in the game. Tonight, we came out in front of a great crowd and knocked down some shots which was great to see. We also did a great job of setting them up.”

Particularly effective was Silas Zartman, who connected on three shots from behind the arc on his way to a team-high 15 points.

After falling behind 26-22, Caston went on an 11-0 run to go back ahead 33-26 in the third period. Senior Dustin Swartzel tallied nine of his 12 points in the stanza, including a three ball and added two steals.

The fourth quarter, though, belonged to West Central. It took the Trojans less than 90 seconds to claim a 36-35 lead as Corey Howat stole the ball and fed twin brother, Ryan, for a layup with 6:44 remaining.

Several lead changes followed leading up to the final three minutes. Free throws played a big factor late as West Central hit 5-of-8, while the Comets missed two bonus opportunities that could have given them leads.

“Both Howat boys stepped up for (West Central) and made plays,” Bales said. “It wasn’t even about scoring. They got steals and loose balls on the defensive end. And they also drove to the basket and set up some of their big guys. They’re extremely athletic and they made the plays.”

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