The Van-Far boys varsity basketball team knocked off Mark Twain 54-49 for a tight season -opening win on Tuesday, November 20.
The Indians held a 22-21 lead by half and outscored Mark Twain 19-7 in the third quarter. With the Indians leading by 13 points coming in to the fourth quarter, the Tigers came back late with their own 19-7 run with an at-the-buzzer 3-pointer but couldn’t halt an Indians victory.
“We came out a little amped-up and got going a lot faster than what we wanted to,” Van-Far head coach Pat Connaway said, referring to the first minutes of the game. “We were going so fast we kept turning the ball over early and Ethan picked up two quick fouls. Once Ethan went to the bench, freshman Nick Barnes had to run the point for us. Nick was very nervous and tentative early on in the first quarter. He turned the ball over a couple of times and was very unsure of himself. He let his defense get him going, he got a steal and a lay-up early in the second quarter and then he was able to calm his nerves and play basketball.”
Leading scorers for the Indians were Nick Barnes with 13 points, Ethan Gooch and John Gerderman with 11 points, Brian Kurz with eight points, Woodrow Jackson with six, and Ryan Nelson with five points.
Van-Far committed 19 turnovers and went 13-for-23 at the free throw line. Connaway said foul trouble hampered the Indians’ offense in early in the game with the defense carrying the squad through the final minutes of the second half.
“Our defense really carried us until we found a sudden burst of offense in the last two minutes of the second quarter,” Connaway said. “Barnes knocked down a three and got fouled on another, and John Gerdeman buried a three that got us right back into the game. We were trailing 18-11 late in the second and closed out the half on a 11-4 run.”
“Last year’s team would have gotten blown out and thrown in the towel, but they kept up the defensive intensity and kept fighting and clawed our way back into the game,” he said.
In the third quarter, the Indians came onto the court with the first half well behind them to build a 13-point lead moving into the fourth quarter.
“In the third quarter we came out and did just about everything right, we forced turnovers, rebounded the ball well, and executed in the half court set,” Connaway said.
The Indians led by 17 points in the fourth quarter when turnovers and mismanagement of the clock leveled the lead to five points at the end of the game.
“We haven’t been in this position a lot lately so we have got to get better at clock management, especially when you have a big lead,” Connaway said. “We took some ill-advised shots that we didn’t need and didn’t work the clock very well.”
“All in all I am very pleased with the boys effort especially on the defensive end,” he said. “We are starting to understand defense a lot better,” Connaway said. “We have a lot of room for improvement but I think we are already better defensively than we were last year. This win is a huge confidence booster for us. It has been two years since we won a game before Christmas break.”