Cascella delivers for Wheaton North
Wheaton North's Sam Cascella is nearing the end of the line in his competitive basketball career.
Even in a shortened season without a state tournament or regular fan attendance, the senior point guard is relishing his first full season starting on the varsity.
Every minute of every game is important for hard-nosed Cascella, who plans to run track at Marquette next season.
"As a senior, I know this is my last year of competitive basketball, but this year more than ever, you have to cherish everything you got," Cascella said.
Cascella showed his worth to the Falcons in Wednesday's DuKane Conference home showdown against Geneva.
Cascella scored a career-high 12 points, added 5 rebounds and 4 assists to spark the Falcons to a 43-32 win. Troy Hegranes scored 8 points for the Falcons.
The 5-foot-3 Cascella made a pair of 3-pointers and scored 6 points in the first quarter to lead the Falcons (6-2, 4-2) to a 14-9 lead that they would not relinquish.
"It felt good to help us win and play well," Cascella said.
Judging Cascella's performance in Wednesday's win solely on the offensive side is just half of the equation. He grabbed several key defensive rebounds and ignited the fastbreak.
More importantly, his defense on high-scoring Geneva point guard Nathan Valentine played a bigger role in the win.
Valentine, who scored 33 of Geneva's 40 points in a 40-39 win over St. Charles North on Feb. 17, served as his team's main source of offense against the Falcons. Valentine, an Illinois Wesleyan recruit, was held to 2 points in the first half and finished with a game-high 14 points.
Cascella joked that he will "definitely sleep well" after playing all 32 minutes against the Vikings (5-3, 3-3).
"Going into the game, we knew (Valentine) is a heck of a player and is really tough," Cascella said. "He's a great shooter and scorer. We knew what we had to do to lock in on him. I guarded him, but my teammates helped me on drives and screens."
Cascella's ability to body up Valentine on drives and fight over screens was essential in keeping Geneva's offense in check.
"Sam never came out of the game and played all 32 minutes, but that wasn't the plan," Wheaton North coach Dave Brackmann said. "Sam was doing such a good job on defense that we kept going with what's working. Usually when you have a guy play that kind of defense, it kind of hurts their offensive game, but Sam did some great things on offense.
"If we're handing out a game ball, it would go to Sam for sure. But everybody contributed and our defense was great tonight."
Cascella set the tone for a big offensive night by hitting a 3-pointer early in the first quarter. He scored on a coast-to-coast layup, tumbling to the ground and added a free throw to complete the 3-point play at the first-quarter buzzer.
With Geneva mounting a late comeback, Cascella sealed the victory by racing up the court and whipping a pass to Mark Forcucci in the corner, who drained a 3-pointer to push the advantage up to 42-29 with two minutes remaining in regulation.
Geneva struggled all game finding a flow, falling behind 25-16 at halftime. The Vikings played without Dylan Fuzak, while the Falcons' Connor Haake also missed the game.
"Wheaton North is good defensively and we didn't hit our shots," Geneva coach Scott Hennig said. "They're always physical and play good defense. We missed some easy shots."