It was not a cheerful goodbye. Ten players will be graduating.
The Blue Devils (23-5) made history by becoming the school’s first entry into the Virginia High School League boys basketball semifinals. Unfortunately, they were matched against the state’s top-ranked team.
Madison County (25-0) defeated Castlewood on Thursday 51-38 at the Siegel Center to advance to today’s Group A, Division 1 championship game. Despite the 13-point margin, victory didn’t come easily for a school competing in its eighth VHSL semifinal game.
After falling behind 18-11 in the first quarter, the Blue Devils made a sudden turnaround and got within two points by haftime.
“This was the first time we’d played a team that spread the floor and scored on backdoor plays,’’ Madison coach Ben Breeden said. “We made the proper adjustments and our kids played well after the first half.
“Our fans were out here in force We needed some energy in the second half to turn the game in our favor.’’
Madison had more bench strength and an advantage in quickness but Castlewood’s deliberate offense kept the game interesting until Logan Terrell, a sky-jumping, 6-foot-1 senior, took over. His inside penetration eventually put the score out of reach.
Terrell led Madison with 14 points and 6-5 David Falk anchored the Mountaineers underneath the boards with 14 rebounds. “Last year we came up short,’’ Terrell said, “but we’re back.’’
Ruben Rasnick, the coach’s son, was the only Castlewood player to hit double figures with 11 points.
The Blue Devils hurt themselves with 17 turnovers. Eleven of these were steals by Madison.
“We had a great year,’’ Wayne Rasnick said. “We played a team that was ranked No. 1 in the state all year long. I’d say their ranking was right. This was a defensively sound, well-coached team.
“Our kids did well until the third quarter, when he had a little self-destruction going on. I’m proud of this ballclub, particularly the seniors. They will leave Castlewood with back-to-back region championships because they bought into our system and listened.’’
Castlewood, a reputable defensive team with a lot of man-to-man tendencies, came out in a zone to prevent Madison from having its way with fast breaks.
“We didn’t do that very often this season,’’ Rasnick said. “We wanted a slow-paced game. We thought if we could hold the score in the 40s, we’d have a chance to win. We felt good about being down by just two points at the half. (The Mountaineers) are a team that likes to put a game away in the third quarter, and they did today.’’
Rasnick went on to describe his players as the “cardiac kids’’ and said they’d been taught to show emotion. “I’ve been hung over for the last three weeks, and I don’t drink.’’
“I just hate to see it end,’’ said center Zach Bush, who found himself in early foul trouble and managed just nine points and nine rebounds.
“These guys are awesome,’’ guard Devin Puckett said. “When one of us didn’t play well, there was always someone there to take up the slack.’’
Swingman Ruben Rasnick, reflecting on his career, concluded Castlewood’s media interviews: “There’s no doubt it’s the best experience of my life. Ten years from now, all of these teammates will still be my friends.’’