Catholic (24-3) will play in the championship game at noon today against No. 1 Tug Valley. The Irish will be playing in their eighth title game in the last nine years, with championships in 2006, 2007 and 2012.
Casto turned in 17 points and 10 boards in a 61-48 win over Buffalo in the quarterfinals.
"Just to play hard and tough because my time is limited so I'm going to leave it all out on the court,'' said Casto of his mindset.
"Our coaches have made it a standard to make it to the state tournament every year. To play tough and we establish that by playing good defense, efficient offense and we hit the boards hard. This team has really gotten that. We're playing really hard.''
McClanahan said Casto has grown in his four years in the program.
"Zach's playing like a monster,'' said the Irish coach. "He really is. When Zach first came in the program he thought it was cool to shoot the basketball and that's all he did.
"He and I had an understanding that he needed to work on some other things. More importantly, he did it, and to Zach's credit he plays defense and he rebounds. He's seeing the fruits of his labor. I have nothing but great compliments and great pleasure in watching Zach's success.''
Wheeling Central's surprising run through this year's state tournament should be a harbinger of things to come.
The No. 7 Maroon Knights (14-13) bounced No. 2 Magnolia in the Class A quarterfinals, then gave No. 3 and defending state champion Charleston Catholic a tough game before falling in Friday's semifinals.
Central returns its leading scorer, 6-foot-2 freshman Chase Harler, and the team's second-leading point producer, junior David Park. Juniors Thomas Stanley and Alonzo Manns also received extensive playing time Friday against the Irish.
"Nobody expected us to get here, but we did so they got a little taste of what it's like,'' said Central coach Mel Stephens. "Give them a little motivation in the offseason to work hard to try and get back down here again.''
Stephens said Harler is a special talent.
"He's well beyond his years in basketball just in court sense and that kind of stuff,'' said the Central coach. "The nice thing about our team, he was able to come in from Day 1 and the older guys on the team were willing to accept him. That speaks volumes for those guys. He's blended right in with them.''
What's in a nickname?
The state tournament is always a good time to get to know a little more about some of the players you may not have heard much about before. One such player at this year's tournament is Fairmont Senior sophomore Tavon Horton, who came off the bench to provide a spark with five points, three assists and two steals in the Polar Bears' 65-58 win against Bridgeport in the Class AA semifinals.
When Polar Bears coach David Retton was asked about Horton's play, Retton referred to Horton as "Butters," and deferred to Horton's older brother and teammate Travon Horton for the story behind the origin of the name.
"Me and my twin, when we were little we couldn't say 'brother,'" the older Horton said. "And it was like 'butter' so it stuck with him the whole time."
The big brother said the little brother, who at 5-foot-6 is often the shortest player on the court, is more than just a one-game wonder.
"He rebounds, he plays defense," he said. "He hustles every play."