BRISTOL, Va. — After dropping down, the Castlewood boys basketball program remains ascendant.
The Blue Devils collected their second consecutive regional basketball title, defeating Appalachia 48-37 in Saturday’s Region D, Division 1 championship game at Virginia High.
Castlewood (22-4) won its first-ever region crown last season under coach Wayne Rasnick playing in the Division 2 bracket.
The Blue Devils will face either Galax or Eastern Montgomery in next weekend’s Division 1 state quarterfinals at Virginia High. Appalachia coach Pat Jervis, whose squad will travel to the Salem Civic Center, slipped away immediately following the loss in order to scout the Region C championship game at George Wythe.
Forward Zach Bush led the Blue Devils with 21 points and 10 rebounds. He scored 11 of his points during the fourth quarter, when Castlewood ultimately turned the tables.
“More intensity,” explained Bush, who captured the lead once and for all with his three-point play at 5:12 remaining in the game. “We started playing better. Making smarter passes. Making our shots.”
Castlewood went 9-for-13 from the free throw line in the final period, with six of those shots coming from Bush.
Ruben Rasnick scored 16 points for Castlewood while grabbing eight rebounds — five on the offensive end. Seth Justice had four assists and three steals to go with five points. Justin Smith went scoreless, but expended his energy haunting Appalachia star Forrest Stuart like a towheaded poltergeist.
“Forrest Stuart is one of the best players I’ve seen this year,” said Rasnick, the coach. “Smith is our best defender. I think he’s the best defender in our region.”
Stuart scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Bulldogs (22-5). While Smith accrued some fouls as Stuart’s designated antagonist, Stuart was shackled with his fourth foul with 5½ minutes remaining in the game.
The Bulldogs, who were up 35-29 headed into the final stanza, still clung to a two-point lead at that stage. In hindsight, the big chill had already begun.
Appalachia shot 4-for-16 from the field for the second half and was outscored 19-2 during the fourth frame. The ’Dogs didn’t get that single bucket until Chase Morelock found Cody Boyd underneath with 25 seconds left to play.
By then, Castlewood led by 11 and it was all over but the singing.
“Stupid things happen,” concluded Stuart, who had seven rebounds and blocked three shots.
Appalachia’s imposing 6-foot-7 post Mladen Bogicevic scored 10 points, grabbed seven rebounds and rejected three shots. In the fourth period, however, he was as estranged from the hoop as any of his teammates.
“Gee whiz, he’s the biggest guy I’ve seen in a long time. He plays hard and is very well disciplined,” said Coach Rasnick. “We might’ve contained him, but we didn’t shut him down.”