Caston Comets gymnasium on Saturday, December 22, 2012. | Mark Smith~Sun-Times Media
Hagerstown 64, Lowell 52
LOWELL (4-5) 9 - 12 - 13 - 18 == 52
Hagerstown (7-0) 14 - 8 - 18 - 24 == 64
12-22-12, Caston Shootout - semifinal
LOWELL (52) Aaron Hamm 2-0-4, Eric Zukauskas 4-4-12, Spenser Kersey 1-2-4, Zach Van Hook 7-8-24, Billy Barker 2-0-6, Jordan Hansen 1-0-2, Brandon Cory 0-0-0. TOTALS: 17 (15-22) 52.
HAGERSTOWN (64) Tyler Black 0-4-4, Kain Grose 0-4-4, Bryan Mathews 8-0-20, Cole Bartlett 2-0-4, Jonah McKissick 4-0-11, Thorin Stags 6-4-20, Jacob Leitner 0-1-1, Dylan Centers 0-0-0, Michael Weiss 0-0-0. TOTALS: 20 (13-20) 64.
FREE THROWS: LOWELL (15-22, 68.1%) Van Hook 8-13, Hamm 0-2, Kersey 2-2, Zukauskas 4-5; HAGERSTOWN (13-20, 65%) Beck 4-6, Grose 4-4, Matthews 0-2, Staggs 4-6, Leitner 1-2, Charles 0-2.
REBOUNDS: LOWELL (21) Zukauskas 10, Kersey 5, Van Hook 3, Hamm 3; HAGERSTOWN (27) Grose 7, Bartlett 7, Beck 5, Matthews 3, Stags 2, Centers, Libby, Charles.
ASSISTS: LOWELL (9) Van Hook 2, Kersey 2, Barker 2, Hamm 2, Hansen; HAGERSTOWN (13) Charles 5, Matthews 2, Bartlett 3, Grose, Leitner, McKissick.
STEALS: LOWELL (8) Kersey 3, Zukauskas 3, Van Hook, Hamm; HAGERSTOWN (3) Bartlett 2, Grose.
FOULED OUT: Aaron Hamm (4th Q) 4:05.
3-GOALS: LOWELL (3) Billy Barker 2, Zach Van Hook; HSAGERSTOWN (11) Thorin Stags 5, Bryan Matthews 3, Jonah McKissick 2, Jacob Leitner.
Caston 45, Lowell 42
LOWELL (4-6) 10 - 9 - 12 - 11 == 42
Caston (5-4) 12 - 9 - 15 - 9 == 45
12-22-12, Caston Shootout - 3rd place
LOWELL (42) Aaron Hamm 5-0-11, Eric Zukauskas 2-0-4, Spenser Kersey 1-1-3, Zach Van Hook 9-4-24, Billy Barker 0-0-0, Nick Gramhofer 0-0-0, Jordan Hansen 0-0--0, Brandon Cory 0-0-0. TOTALS: 17 (5-8) 42
CASTON (45) Cory Moss 1-0-3, Quentin Douglass 6-7-20, Jake Howdeshell 5-5-20, Danny Scales 0-2-2, Alex Howdeshell 0-0-0, Jeremy Gonzalez 0-0-0. TOTALS: 12 (14-20) 45.
FREE THROWS: LOWELL (5-8, 67.5%) Van Hook 4-6. Kersey 1-2; CASTON (14-20, 70%) Douglass 7-8, Scales 2-6, Jake Howdeshell 5-6.
REBOUNDS: LOWELL (13) Van Hook 4, Kersey 3, Hamm 3, Zukauskas 2, Gramhofer; CASTON (17) Scales 6, Douglass 5, Jake Howdeshell 4, Moss 2.
ASSISTS: LOWELL (9) Hamm 3, Barker 2, Van Hook 2, Kersey 2; CASTON (8) Scales 4, Moss 2, Jake Howdeshell, Alex Howdeshell
3-GOALS: LOWELL (3) Zach Van Hook 2, Aaron Hamm; CASTON (7) Jake Howdeshell 5, Cory Moss, Quentin Douglass.
Updated: December 24, 2012 11:38AM
FULTON — Caston is not a place you stumble upon accidentally. It doesn’t even show up on a lot of maps.
It’s listed as being in Fulton, Ind., but when you go there you quickly find out it’s not.
The school in southern Fulton County is a little place in the country where teams gather in search of three wins over the holidays.
In that respect, there’s really only one winner of the four-day Caston Shootout.
So when Lowell, with a four-game win streak, took on undefeated tiny town terror Hagerstown in the semifinals Saturday afternoon, many suggested the tournament title was on the line.
Hagerstown played like it. Sinking 11 three-point shots and hustling like there was no tomorrow, the Tigers (8-0) used an 8-0 run in the third quarter to rally past the Devils 64-52 in the pivotal game of eight team Caston holiday tournament.
Playing a semifinal game in the space-challenged Caston Elementary School gym, Lowell seemed a little surprised by the intensity of Hagerstown.
The Tigers, coached by Bobby Jones, a former assistant at nearby Randolph County power Winchester, play Winchester’s exaggerated hustle-style, dive-on-the floor, run-on, run-off style that can take down superior teams.
“We always play that hard,” said Jones after the semifinal win over Lowell. “We don’t always play that smart. And the way we shot the ball today, that’s the best we’ve shot all year.”
Lowell led 32-29 after two free throws by Spenser Kersey with 3:37 left in the third period, but Hagerstown scored the next eight points to take a 37-32 lead with 1:09 left in the third quarter to the delight of a very small but very noisy group of fans from East Central Indiana.
Lowell cut the Tigers’ lead to 40-39 on a three-point shot by Billy Barker with 6:10 to go in the game, but Hagerstown seemed to gain energy in the tiny, cramped gym while Lowell faded.
Back-to-back three point shots by Bryan Matthews and Thorin Stags helped push the Tigers head 48-39 with 5:40 to go and Lowell couldn’t rally.
Lowell also dropped the third place game 45-42 to host Caston, but the life went out of the boys after the loss to Hagerstown (8-0), where they were simply outplayed in the second half of an important matchup.
“That was probably for the championship,” said Lowell coach Nate Richie, who was very disappointed after the 1-2 tourney for his side.
“They play very hard and we just ran out of gas. We only use six or seven players and that’s a factor but that’s no excuse. These were obviously games we could have won.”
Lowell’s problem was that they really didn’t find any offensive options after top scorer Zach Van Hook 24.5 in three games and 6-foot-3 junior for Aaron Hamm. Hamm scored 11 in the quarter finals against Northfield and 10 in the third place game against Caston.
But he fouled out with 4:05 to go against Hagerstown and it allowed Hagerstown to send two and three defenders after Van Hook. It was a big win for the Tigers, who drove three hours twice (Thursday and Saturday) from the Richmond area.
“When you are a school or size (425 students), anytime you beat a larger school its a big deal,” said Jones, whose players and spirited fans clearly felt that facing Lowell was a big deal.
“We were undefeated but we hadn’t played anybody but the other small schools in our area. We wanted to be as physical as they (Lowell) were and we thought we had more depth than they did.
“Lowell is better than anyone we have on our schedule. That Van Hook. What did he get? 24? He’s going to get 24-25 every night.”
Depth was the elephant in the room for Lowell. There are eight varsity players on the roster. When the Devils talk about it, it’s an excuse. When they don’t, they’re ignoring the obvious.
Someone is going to have to come up from the JV. First up may be true point guard Brandon Cory, who Ritchie suggested in the pre-season would be on the varsity before the end of the year after veteran point guar Danny DeBoer became ineligible for the season.
Cory, who played on the Devils JV team that lost 53-51 in overtime in the championship game of the Caston JV shootout Saturday, is listed at 5-foot-8 (that may be an exaggeration) and he weighs almost nothing but he is a gifted dribbler who would be able to take ball handling pressures off Van Hook, who is the target of everyone’s defense.
“It’s obvious we’re short,” said Ritchie, who played Cory and 6-foot-2 Nick Gramhofer on the varsity for a few minutes in the third place game but didn’t commit to any changes.
“Obviously in a tournament like this, we needed more players. We were slow on a lot of things today. Offensively. Defensively. Checking out on shooters. We just didn’t have enough today.”
CASTON NOTES: Lowell’s snow-delayed Caston Shootout quarterfinal against Northfield was postponed from Thursday to Friday because of expected snow and high winds Thursday. The Devils led 33-18 at the half and won 54-41 behind 24 points from Zach Van Hook and stayed in the area (there’s no hotels or motels in Fulton) Friday night.
Lowell coach Nate Richie sounded like hs squad would be back at Caston for the holidays in 2013.
“I like it,” he said. “We get to play teams we ever get to see. We don’t see teams that play like Hagerstown and Caston. Plus we get to play an extra game.”
Indiana high school teams play 20 game sunless they get into tournaments which can up the count to 21 or 22. Lowell’s presence at Caston means they get 21 games this season.
Lowell athletic director Patti McCormack was with the team Saturday in Caston and she hopes to be in Warsaw when the undefeated Lady Devils play in the Warsaw Holiday Tournament today.
Caston’s 2,500-seat main gym is a colorful, roomy high arching old concrete and wood field house, a beautiful, comfortable structure that dates back to the 1960s.
Trouble was, Lowell didn’t get to play there. After a quarterfinal game in the main gym, Lowell’s semifinal and third place games were held in the adjoining elementary school, which was not nearly as nice.
Players had to sit in the first row of the stands squeezed in on one side of the gym.
There was no room on the other side between the sidelines and the wall. The gym was filled with grade school motivational slogans. One sign on the gym wall pronounced the Caston Elementary School as, ironically enough, “The coolest place on the planet.”
Eric Zukauskas scored a season best 12 points against Hagerstown including seven in the first half. The 6-foot-4 sophomore rookie also grabbed 10 rebounds.
Caston, surprisingly, is a 1967 consolidation of North Caston and South Caston, schools that lasted just three years. The original Fulton County schools go back to the pre-World War I years.
In a similar display to the photos of graduating classes that line the walls at Lowell, Caston has a smaller picture display of the graduating classes of Fulton, Grass Creek, “12-mile” and Matea, the little country schools that made up north and south Caston, going back to the start of the 20th century.