by Beau Wicker
Stymied for most the game, Caston’s boys basketball team wasn’t going to go down quietly, not against Pioneer.
The Comets cut a double-digit Panther lead down to two points in the closing minutes Tuesday night, but the Panthers’ defense came up big in crunch time.
The Panthers held off the Comets in a 47-35 win to advance to the Logansport Savings Bank Invitational championship game.
“Holding them to 35 points was huge,” Pioneer coach Pat Skaggs said. “Brandon Scruggs does a lot of things on offense for us, but his defense was just outstanding. I thought that was the big key to the game.”
Caston (0-2) went on a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter to get within 37-35 and had possession of the ball.
But Scruggs came up with a steal, and Carter Skaggs scored on a fastbreak layup to make it a four-point game with 2:00 remaining.
Carter Skaggs and Mitchell Williams then came up with back-to-back steals that resulted in scores that made it 43-35 with under a minute to go, and Pioneer was able to widen the margin of victory from there.
Caston coach Ben Snyder pointed to his squad’s 16 turnovers as a big reason for the loss.
“Obviously we’re going to have to handle that first wave, that trap up top, you get a wide-open shot. Unfortunately we didn’t handle that wave 16 times,” he said. “It comes down to being patient, but as soon as they trap you have a wide-open shot, you have to be able to have your feet ready and take care of the ball. A team has to have consequences if they’re going to do that.”
Pioneer (1-1) led us much as 33-18 with under a minute to go in the third quarter before Caston began chipping away. Dustin Offenberger and Corey Moss each hit a pair of 3-pointers to help the Comets go on a 17-4 run to cut the lead to two.
“I thought we got a little bit impatient there at times in the second half and got a little bit in too big of a hurry, and Caston took advantage of that,” Pat Skaggs said.
Carter Skaggs led the Panthers with 19 points and hit three 3-pointers in the contest.
“The bottom line is you have to pick your poison,” Snyder said. “You give up layups or you make him hit outside shots. I wasn’t really disappointed in that area.
“I thought we played much better defensively than we did a week ago.”
Clayton Harvey added nine points for Pioneer, Matt Dorris had seven and Scruggs and Stephen Whitlock added five apiece.
Williams returned from a broken and dislocated wrist injury suffered just over seven weeks ago in football and had the key steal down the stretch and a blocked shot and score to close out the game.
Pat Skaggs didn’t expect Williams back until Christmas at the earliest.
“We’re awful glad to have him back on the court. He definitely helps us out a lot,” he said. “We’re fortunate to get him back as soon as we did.”
Quentin Douglass led Caston with 14 points. Offenberger scored nine, Moss had seven and Jake Howdeshell added five.
Snyder said his squad also missed four “hip-ins” or boxouts that led to easy scores for the Panthers, but he added the game can help his squad moving forward.
“It helps us start to realize our identity. It was progress from a week ago,” he said. “The bottom line is we’ve got to take care of the ball and get hip-ins.”
The boys consolation and championship games are on Friday beginning at 6:30 p.m.