TO THE HOOP:

Caston's Michelle Centers (L) drives around Tri County's Jessy Ruemler during the second half of the sectional game held at West Central on Wednesday. (Pharos-Tribune photo by Angi Turnpaugh)

By TERENCE FLYNTZ

Pharos-Tribune sportswriter

FRANCESVILLE — Wednesday night’s sectional matchup between the Caston and Tri-County girls basketball teams played out almost exactly like their regular-season metting on Jan 6, when Caston won 31-29.

Caston again held Tri-County to 29 points, but this time the Lady Comets scored 33 points in a four-point victory, propelling them into Friday night’s semifinal against host West Central in Class A Sectional 52.

“I’m really excited for the kids. We havent won a sectional game in quite a few years,” Caston coach Michelle Hines said. “I’m glad they’ll get the opportunity to win a semifinal game.”

The Comets (5-16) started the game with a patient approach, passing around the perimeter and milking the clock to limit the Lady Cavaliers’ time of possession.

The strategy was successful early as the Comets grabbed a 6-2 lead in the first quarter and carried that score into the second.

Tri-County (12-9) executed its offense better in the second quarter, cutting a four-point deficit to one, 10-9, late in the half. However, Caston finished the half with a momentum swing.

Late in the second quarter, the Cavaliers had possession with a chance to take the lead for the first time since 2-0, when Caston junior Sara Gunter stole a pass, jetted the length of the court and made a lay-up while being fouled. Gunter converted the free throw and the Comets headed to the half up 13-9.

Gunter finished the game with nine points and 11 rebounds.

“She’s a player. She wants to compete and she wants to win basketball games,” Hines said of Gunter. “She knows it’s not going to get done with the three-point shooting or the dribbling, but she steps up and accentuates those areas where we really need her. She did a great job.”

The Comets came out of the half on fire, scoring the first eight points of the third quarter and 11 straight overall, giving Caston a 21-9 lead.

The Comets again finished a quarter with momentum. This time, it was senior Michelle Centers hitting a 12-footer from the wing as the clock ran down on the third quarter.

Between quarters, Hines instructed her team not to take any quick shots unless they were lay-ups. The team listened, effectively running a lot of clock. The game seemed in control with under four minutes left and the Comets holding a 29-20 lead.

The Cavaliers had one last run in them, however.

Two back-door lay-ups in a row cut the deficit to three, 29-26, with two minutes left. Caston then missed its next shot, but center Kaylyn Herrold came up with a pivotal offensive rebound and got fouled going up for the follow shot. Herrold made one of two, making it a two-possession game.

Things got tense on the Caston bench in the final minute.

Tri-County had the ball down three with less than a minute left. After an initial miss, Cavalier guard Morgan Meyer had the loose ball come right to her behind the arc. Meyer immediately fired from long range, but the shot hit front rim and Herrold cleaned up the rebound. Tri-County got another chance to tie when Herrold missed the front end of a one-and-one. Again, Tri-County couldn’t hit from deep and Herrold grabbed another big rebound and was fouled with 1.5 seconds remaining. Shooting two this time, Herrold made the first attempt and iced the game.

Herrold finished with a game-high 14 points and grabbed five rebounds.

“Kaylyn played a great game for us. She’s kind of our rock as far as being a solid player and someone we can get the ball to and have a lot of confidence in,” Hines said of her center. “I thought she did a really good job.”

Centers scored six points and had four steals. Gunter added two steals, herself.

Friday’s semifinal game against West Central starts at 6 p.m. Caston lost to West Central 48-26 in the regular season.

Terence Flyntz can be contacted at (574) 732-5113, Ext. 5113, or via e-mail at terence.flyntz@pharostribune.com

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