Charleston Catholic's Garret McCarty droves to the basket against Parkersburg Catholic's Payton Sturm.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It must almost be tournament time, because Charleston Catholic is starting to hum along at a high level of play.
Zach Casto poured in a career-best 23 points and the Irish shot at a better than 60 percent clip for a second straight game Tuesday night, rolling to a 78-48 victory over Parkersburg Catholic at the Charleston Catholic Athletic Facility.
It marked the 12th straight win for the Irish (14-1), who have held down the No. 1 spot in the Class A rankings the past four weeks.
The Irish have won their last three by a total of 78 points. Even though they're always a factor in the postseason - having reached the Class A title game seven times in the previous eight seasons - they seemed to be in tournament form Tuesday, beating up on the No. 4 team in the state.
"We're playing good basketball right now,'' said Irish coach Bill McClanahan. "Our IQ's good, our execution's good, our shooting's good, our energy's good, our preparation's good. We're at a good level right now, and this is the level we need to be at to get ready for March. We're at a good place right now, and we need to keep pushing a little bit.''
Charleston Catholic again came out smoking, hitting 10 of 14 shots in the first quarter and never really cooled off. The Irish finished 29 of 48 for 60 percent, following a 62-percent effort in Friday's 62-42 win over Wheeling Central. The 78 points was five off their season-high.
"Our team's playing a lot harder and a lot more unselfish,'' said Casto, who made his first six field goal tries after going 6 of 6 against Central. "Our defense is getting sharper and our plays are getting way sharper.''
Casto wound up 8 of 10 from the floor and also pulled down seven rebounds. Garrett McCarty added 19 points, five assists and four steals.
The Irish even free-lanced a bit, as their point guard (McCarty) tied for the team lead in rebounds with seven and their all-state post player (Nick George) dished out a team-high seven assists.
Other indicators of the Irish strength: They had no turnovers in the first quarter in building their big lead (and just six for the game) and never committed enough fouls in either half to put the Crusaders into the 1-and-1 bonus.
"It's February. It's typical of a Coach McClanahan team,'' said Parkersburg Catholic coach Rob Strcula. "This is when they hit their stride. They always peak come February or March. We had them at a bad time, but that's what you get when you play Charleston Catholic.''
The Crusaders (14-3), who lost to Ritchie County with two starters sitting out last week, were at full health Tuesday - at least until starting center Brady Kurucz suffered a knee and ankle injury late in the first quarter and sat out the rest of the game.
"We just put forth a poor effort,'' said Strcula, whose team lost to the Irish by five points in December. "It was all about their level of energy. We didn't match it.''
Joe Padden led the Crusaders with 14 points. Jake Ullman and Ben Collie scored 11 apiece.
Charleston Catholic's play was often spotty over its first 12 games, with nearly half those contests decided by seven points or less, but that's not been the case recently.
"Honestly, at the very beginning of the season, our team thought we were really good at the time,'' Casto said, "but then we came to a quick conclusion that we weren't - I think it was after the Poca loss. It really opened our eyes to the whole playing field.
"Our team was not as good as we think, We can be - and we are getting there - but now we know it's going to take a lot of hard work and stuff like that in practice.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.