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Van-Far varsity boys basketball head coach Pat Connaway said the Indians’ 63-47 Courtwarming victory over Wright City was bittersweet with senior post Brian Kurz potentially out for the remainder of the season due to an illness.
“The locker room was kind of solemn but was very focused,” Connaway said. “In the locker room, we talked about being focused for the entire game, winning every quarter, playing with max effort, and really picking up the slack in Brian’s absence.”
Ethan Gooch followed through, posting a career-high 28 points with the help of Ryan Nelson and John Gerdeman keeping the inside lanes clear, as well as Nick Barnes, who chipped in 13 points for a Van-Far victory. The Indians were up by two points by the end of the first quarter and outscored Wright City 17-7 in the second for a 29-17 lead at the half.
“It was nice to come out of the locker room and see the entire middle and west sections of the bleachers jam packed!” Connaway said. “This was only our fifth home game all year, and we didn’t want to let our fans down. After a shaky first quarter, we really played a great second quarter and were able to build a 12 point lead heading into the half.”
Wright City rallied to play nearly point-for-point in the third quarter but lost it 13-12. In the fourth, Van-Far built a 59-33 lead with five minutes of play left in the contest, as Wright City closed the frame on a 14-4 run. The Indians’ final 16-point edge also ended Van-Far’s eight game losing streak.
“I may have started subbing a little early, but I wanted to get some of our younger kids a little more experience and I wanted to try and protect some of our starters from getting injured,” Connaway said. “The game started to get a little ‘chippie’ in the fourth and with (Kurz) already on the sidelines, I wanted to try and protect (Nelson) and (Gerdeman). I was very pleased with our effort and execution tonight. We did everything we needed to do to snap the losing streak and it was also nice for the seniors to be able to win their final Court-warming game.”
Barnes followed Gooch’s 28-point run with 13 points; Nelson chipped in seven points; Kyle Decker added five points; Gerdeman had four points; Woodrow Jackson chipped in three points; Cody Stubblefield had two points; and freshman Wyatt McDowell posted one point in the win.
Falls to Bowling Green
Although three Indians tallied double digits, shooting trouble ultimately led to a tough 55-42 loss to Bowling Green’s Bulldogs.
“Our defense was really good in the first quarter, but we really struggled on the offensive end,“ Connaway said. “We got just about everything we wanted on the offensive end out of our sets, but we just couldn’t knock down shots. The shots we were getting looked very good out of the boys’ hand, but they just weren’t falling.”
Van-Far was held to four points in the first quarter and fell short 19-13 in the second to trail 27-17 at halftime.
“We talked about cutting the lead in half by the end of the third and we talked how important the first four minutes of the third would be,” Connaway said. “Bowling Green was able to stretch their lead to 18 by the midway point in the third. The boys really responded well coming out of the time and we closed the quarter out on a 6-0 run to get the lead back to 12 heading into the fourth.”
The Indians were outscored 12-11 in the fourth, short 13 points from victory.
“In the fourth we battled hard and were able to cut the lead to six points with three minutes to go but weren’t able to get any closer and Bowling Green did what good teams do to win games — they hit their free throws,” Connaway said.
Gooch led with 12 points followed by Barnes with 11. Kurz chipped in 10 points and Gerdeman added nine points.
Beat by Marion County
Connaway said the Indians’ 51-44 loss the Marion County was best described as a tale of two halves.
“Tonight we came out really strong and played an all-around outstanding first half,” he said. “Defensively, we played great man-to-man defense and our help side and rotations were good. Offensively, we really executed well, got open looks, and we were able to knock down shots. Not many teams our size could have stayed with us in the first half tonight, we built a 15-point lead in the second quarter and took a 13-point lead into the break.”
Van-Far’s momentum fell short in the third quarter, being held to just two points as their double-digit edge dwindled to a 33-33 tie coming into the fourth quarter.
“In the third quarter we missed a lot of easy shots including two missed layups and two easy put-backs by our big guys and this allowed Marion County to climb their way back into the game and also allowed their crowd to get back into the game.”
The Indians responded with 11 points in the fourth quarter but couldn’t execute the win. Gooch and Barnes each tallied 12 points; Kurz posted 10 points; Nelson chipped in six points; and Gerdeman added four.