Highland rallied late in the game to rob a win from the Van-Far varsity boys basketball team in the first round of the Palmyra Tournament held January 14-19. The Indians fell 62-58.
“Tonight we played extremely well on both sides of the ball, I don’t think we can play any better,” Van-Far head coach Pat Connaway said. “Except for a three to four minute span in the third quarter, I thought we played great. In the first half, we handled the pressure, got great looks inside, and finally were able to finish at the rim tonight. Our big guys gave us what we have been expecting and waiting for all night long. We built a 10 point lead heading into the half.”
Van-Far outscored Highland 16-11 in the first quarter and won the second for a 35-25 lead at the half.
“We talked in the locker room both before and at the half about breaking the game down into segments and just taking it eight minutes at a time,” Connaway said. “We knew that Highland wasn’t going to go away and that they were going to make a strong push in the second half.”
Highland came back to win the third quarter 18-12 and finish the contest with a 19-12 run.
“In the third quarter, we came out strong and extended the lead to 14 then we got into a little foul trouble and struggled against the press,” Connaway said “We allowed Highland to close out the quarter on a 15-6 run and cut our lead to five heading into the fourth. The fourth quarter was back and forth until Highland took a seven-point lead with 2:30 to go. We didn’t panic and didn’t quit. We cut the lead to two with a minute to go.”
Ryan Nelson posted a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds; Brain Kurz followed suit with 16 points and 10 rebounds; Nick Barnes chipped in 11 points; and Ethan Gooch tallied 10 points.
“We had several chances at the end to tie or take the lead, but just couldn’t execute,” Connaway said. “We missed three front end of 1-1’s, had two costly turnovers, and missed a key block out when they were shooting free throws. This was a game versus a very good team that we let slip away. We need to learn how to finish games and tonight is a tough learning lesson. We showed tonight that when we play well we can compete with anybody around.”
Falls to Monroe City
Van-Far was knocked out of the Palmyra Tournament after a 62-41 loss to Monroe City.
“Tonight we were very flat from the get go,” Connaway said. “We had no energy and our defense was awful. Monroe City knocked down shots, but several of them were wide open looks and weren’t even contested. Monroe jumped out to a 12-3 lead and we managed to close out the first quarter on a 10-2 run to cut the lead to one point heading to the second quarter.”
Monroe City’s defense then held Van-Far off with a 16-6 run to end the half up 30-19.
“In the second quarter, Monroe continued their hot shooting and we continued to be sluggish,” Connaway said.
Monroe City continued to dominate scoring in the third quarter, posting 20 points. Van-Far won the fourth quarter 13-12 but still trailed by 21 points for a win.
“The second half wasn’t much better than the first, we gave up 20 points in the third quarter and were never able to get back into the game,” Connaway said. “I give (Monroe City) credit. They did what we weren’t able to do a few nights earlier. When you have a double digit lead at half, you want to come out strong in the third quarter and you want to knock your opponent out. They were able to come out and deliver the knock out blow.”
Gooch led with 21 points; Nelson posted eight points; Kurz chipped in four points; and Barnes, Woodrow Jackson, Kyle Decker, and Logan Boyd each had two points.
“Normally our defense is very solid but tonight we just didn’t get the job done we gave them way too many easy baskets and our rotations were either not there or were very late,” Connaway said. “I’m not sure if the late game, getting out of school early or sickness contributed to the kids being sluggish, but it definitely wasn’t the same team that showed up to play Monday night.”
Van-Far is 5-9 on the season and 0-4 in EMO.