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Boys basketball: Catholic gets off to fast start, knocks off Gilmer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Catholic boys basketball program is back in the state tournament.

The Irish knocked off Gilmer County 60-40 Thursday night at the Charleston Catholic Athletic Complex in the Class A Region 4 co-final, and in the process, punched their ticket to the state tournament for the ninth straight season.

Catholic improves to 22-3 and advances to the quarterfinals at the Charleston Civic Center next week. The Irish are seeded third and will play No. 6 Buffalo on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.

Gilmer County ends its season at 13-11.

The Irish will be looking to knock off the Bison for the fourth time this season after winning the first three games by scores of 53-46, 83-59, and 55-44.

"It's always fantastic to get back to the state tournament," Catholic Coach Bill McClanahan said. "It's very humbling and an incredible experience. We value it. It's important to us so it's great to be going back."

Catholic wasted little time jumping on Gilmer County, scoring the last 15 points of the first quarter en route to a 20-3 lead.

The Irish were determined to start faster than they did in their previous game after trailing Buffalo by 15 points in the second half before coming from behind to post an 11-point victory.

"We did not play well against Buffalo in the sectional final, especially in the first quarter," McClanahan said. "One of our points of emphasis was we needed to come out better focused and with better energy.

"Tonight, we were able to do that and that got us a cushion that carried us through the game. The start was very important.

Catholic was led by the inside combination of Nick George and Zach Casto, who both posted double-doubles for the Irish.

Casto, a senior, led the way with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while George, a junior, tallied 17 points and grabbed 10 boards. The two helped Catholic enjoy a 36-16 rebounding advantage over the Titans.

"It's a nice 1-2 inside punch," McClanahan said. "They are complementary to each other. Nick is a little bit more finesse and Zach is a little bit more blue collar. Between the two of them, they have been getting the job done."

Casto has made the state tournament every season and is hoping to end his Irish career with another state title.

"It feels awesome," Casto said. "There always is a hunger inside of us to that ring. There are so many teams that just wish to make the state tournament. Our coaches have made that a standard."

McClanahan couldn't be happier for Casto.

"I'm pleased for Zach because he has worked hard to improve," McClanahan said. "He has waited his turn and done what he has needed to put himself in a position to be successful. Last year his role was limited and this year he is a vital part.

"He did that because he earned it. He deserves what he is getting. That's a good lesson for our younger guys and our program. You get what you deserve."



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