by Rick Conrad
For the Pharos-Tribune
Lewis Cass’ boys basketball team completed a weekend sweep while on the road by downing the Rochester Zebras 67-48 Saturday evening.
The Kings and Zebras both started off slowly in the contest following a triple over-time JV game. Cass struggled hitting shots on offense while Rochester started piling up the foul count. By the 1:14 mark of the quarter Lewis Cass was already in the bonus at the free throw line. Unfortunately for the Kings, bad free throw shooting continues to follow them and the bonus proved not to be much of an advantage for the rest of the half.
A 3-pointer by Owen Ohman shortly before the buzzer gave the Kings a 11-10 lead after one quarter of play.
Rochester finally got on track early in the second quarter behind some hot shooting from Jonathan O’Dell. The Cass defenders were having troubles following O’Dell and the senior made them pay. By the 6:23 mark of the second the Zebras had gone on a 10-2 run forcing the Kings to take a short timeout. When O’Dell hit his second 3-pointer of the quarter at the 5:51 mark he had at that time outscored the Kings 17-15.
The Kings turned up the pressure after that, and when freshman Ryan Bixler completed a traditional three-point play at 4:15 the scored was tied at 21-21. Both squads traded jabs for the rest of the quarter and a Ryan Aldridge putback with :09 left gave the Kings a 30-29 lead going into the break. Of the 30 Zebra points, 19 belonged to O’Dell.
When play resumed in the second half, O’Dell and company found themselves going against a more intense Cass team. The senior was finding someone on him every time he touched the ball and the defender was taking away any chance of a shot. Offensively, the Kings spread the floor and used Blake Hadley and Austin Keisling to penetrate the Zebra defense. The duo worked it well and were able to dish on inside to an open Aldridge or Jordan Miller for easy baskets.
Fouls continued to mount for Rochester in the third with starters having to rest on the bench for long spurts. A desperation heave from Hadley from half-court at the buzzer gave the Kings a 48-36 lead going into the final quarter.
The final quarter was much of the same as the third was. Fouls continued to add up against Rochester and the Kings continued spreading the floor for Keisling to penetrate. The junior drew several fouls from the Zebras and hit five free throws in the quarter and repeatedly found Aldridge and Miller for open baskets.
The Kings had their biggest lead of the night at the 3:12 mark following a steal and traditional three from Hadley before going on for the win.
“Austin does such a great job of breaking defenses down,” Cass mentor Jon Kitchel said. “He has good judgment once he gets in the paint. He can either pull up and hit the shot or he can dish to the open guys and they did a good job of finishing.
“We were afraid we were going to have a slow start after the JV game, and we did. In the second half though we spread the floor like we did against Taylor [Friday] night and had some success with it. Plus, in the second half we were more aware of their shooters were and that really helped us.”
Aldridge led the Cass attack with 22 points and eight rebounds. Miller had a big night finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds for the double-double. Keisling chipped in 17 points of his own. The Kings out-rebounded Rochester 30-24 in the game.
O’Dell finished with a game-high 23 points for Rochester, just four of them coming in the second half.
“We came out in the second half and we started doing the things that we do well. We were able to expose some things that they have trouble with,” said Kitchel. “I think we have a team that’s really starting to gel right now.”