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Indians’ state title reign ends in semifinals

Posted on Friday, March 8, 2019 at 2:18 pm

Van-Far’s Verlyn Johnson makes his move around an Oran defender.

Van-Far coaches knew their squad would have their hands full with a quick, 29-1 Oran squad in the Class 2 state semifinals. While they attempted to pound the ball inside, costly turnovers and the Eagles’ hot shooting led to the end of the Indians’ reign as state champions.
Oran made 20-of-33 shots from the field (60.6 percent) and 6-of-9 three-point attempts in the win. Meanwhile, Van-Far made just 2-of-13 three-point attempts and shot just around 42.5 percent from the field.
“We knew that we were bigger and stronger and they were quicker,” said Van-Far head coach Pat Connaway. “And their speed just kind of bothered us a little bit…We were prepared, just had some mental lapses today. We didn’t perform at our best today, but like I told the kids in the locker room,  there’s 124 other teams that would love to be playing right now in Class 2A and we are the defending state champs from last year and now, we are trying to focus on being the third best team in the state.”
Senior Caden Wilburn talked about his team’s tough loss in the Media Room after the game.
“Honestly, I really think we just lost to a better team tonight,” he said. “We didn’t seem mentally prepared coming into the game…We want to leave with something, not nothing.”
Senior Trey Miller noted the importance of his team’s focus heading into tomorrow’s third place game, which will be played at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 9 inside the Hammons Student Center.
The game opened with a fast pace that played to the Indians’ early advantage. Van-Far was able to pound the ball inside to Verlyn Johnson, who scored five points in the first quarter. He also had three big blocks to pace the Indians’ defense. The Indians led by three with 31.2 second left in the quarter when Caden Wilburn was whistled for a second charging foul. This forced Connaway to move Caden to the bench, one of his team’s key ball handlers who was helping with battling a pressing Oran defense.
In the second quarter, Oran’s Jacob Shoemaker made four three-pointers while the Eagles made five total in those eight minutes.
Meanwhile, Van-Far took just its second three-point attempt of the game early in the quarter and only had five attempts in the half.
Oran made 5-of-6 shots from the field in the quarter and went into halftime with a 29-22 lead.
As the Indians have done all season, they made some adjustments at the break and came out focused in the third quarter.
Caden Wilburn hit a big three-pointer as part of an 8-0 run. Miller’s free throw with 4:08 left in the quarter cut the Eagles’ lead to 31-30.
Oran quickly responded; however, as two Van-Far turnovers and a couple of missed shots led to Oran’s own 9-0 run to go up nine.
“We’ve been a good third quarter team all year making our adjustments,” Connaway said. “We cut it to one, you know, miss a layup, they get a break out on a rebound, get a bucket, and then we turn the ball over. And it went from one to seven, you know, really quick and it just kind of I think broke our spirits and we never really bounced back.”
The Indians did cut the lead to seven with 2:20 left in the game on Caden Wilburn’s jump shot, but that was as close as Van-Far would get.
Oran’s offense was successful keeping the ball away from the Indians late in the game. They ended up making 7-of-12 free throws down the stretch to pull away for the 18-point victory.
Caden Wilburn led the Indians with 13 points and two rebounds while Miller tallied nine points, five rebounds, and four assists.
Verlyn Johnson scored seven points, four rebounds, and one assist; Verdell Johnson had seven points and four rebounds; Dillion Minor added two points and one block; Colin Wilburn had two points, four rebounds, and two assists; and Sam Middleton had two rebounds.