CASEY, Ill. —
The Casey boys basketball team has one of the top shooters in the Wabash Valley. Six-foot-3 guard Brandon Wolfe has knocked down 59 3-pointers for the Warriors and averages close to 23 points-per-game.
And Casey takes as much momentum as any of the strong teams into the Class 2A Newton Regional. The Warriors have won 11 of their last 12 games, winning the Little Illini Conference tournament title for the first time since 2004 during that stretch. Casey’s only recent loss came on a neutral court to Harrisburg (25-1), the state’s No. 1 team in 2A, by a score of 68-50.
Casey (19-6) has played a brutal schedule that also includes a loss to unbeaten Indiana Class A’s No. 1 Rockville in the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic opener. Another loss came to 2A No. 8 St. Joseph-Ogden. Another came to 23-4 Robinson, which went unbeaten in the LIC regular season.
“We’ve been on a roll lately. We’ve beat some really good teams, but we ran into a brick house playing Harrisburg. We had a rough first half, but fought back, had it within six and ended up giving it away in the end,” Wolfe said.
The Warriors have improved defensively and they’re getting outstanding play from 6-2 senior Trivette Scales, who’s averaging 17 points. Scales led the Warriors to the LIC title with 20 points
and five steals in the championship game
On Feb. 5 against Paris, Scales had 29 of his career-high 33 points by halftime.
“When teams are keying on me, Trivette is just dominating,” Wolfe said. “He’s getting himself open, he’s getting to the bucket, he’s hitting shots. He’s done everything that coach has asked him to do. I would love to have his athleticism. He can jump, he can run, he can defend. He’s a very big key to our team.”
Coach Steve Hawkins agrees wholeheartedly, praising Scales and senior big man Matt McCown for their leadership this season.
“Trivette is probably one of the most underrated players in the area. He has always been a top-notch athlete, and this year in particular he has become more consistent at both ends of the floor and has been a great teammate and leader for our team,” Hawkins said. “When he plays inside-out he can be very dangerous offensively and he is also our most versatile defender due to his athleticism and length.
“Trivette does so much for our team at both ends, it is really hard to put in words just how much he provides for us. He can score 30-plus, grab 10-plus rebounds, have 7-plus steals or 7-plus assists on any given night.”
Scales and Wolfe lead Casey into a third meeting with Newton on Wednesday night at Newton, where the Warriors will try to beat the Eagles for the third time.
With Newton and Robinson new to the LIC — and traditional power Marshall winning 20 games once again — the conference tournament title was meaningful for the Warriors, Wolfe said.
“Winning that meant a lot just because we hadn’t done it since 2004. That’s quite a long streak,”
The Warriors average 68 points as a team, and they’re working better together at the defensive end as well.
“Coach Hawkins is trying to get us there. He’s a defensive-minded coach for sure,” Wolfe said. “We have so many athletes on our team. We’re finally starting to get together.”
That’s just been a matter of maturing.
In his third year as head coach at his alma mater, Hawkins had enough talent his first two years to finish over .500, but the Warriors have grown into a more confident group this year.
“It’s been a good year so far. We maybe let one game get away from us. We’ve played good competition, and we’ve set ourselves up to have a successful postseason,” Hawkins said.
Wolfe is the main reason. He’s shooting a career-best 45 percent from the field, a pretty good number for a guy that takes a lot of jump shots.
“His defense has gotten a lot better. He’s definitely become a smarter defender. His shooting percentages are up. He’s just a special player,” Hawkins said. “He’s got a smooth stroke, especially when he gets on fire. High-release point, he puts in the work.”
Wolfe, who has had some Division I interest from programs such as Indiana State and Missouri State, has enjoyed his junior season the best.
“I feel like I’ve had a pretty good year. My favorite thing this year is we’re winning,” Wolfe said, expanding on the reasons for the winning. “Team ball. Definitely playing team ball. Everyone’s playing together now. Everyone’s caring about each other. Everyone’s working for each other. Everyone’s working on their offense, defense, setting screens.”