Van-Far head coach Pat Connaway was hoping his team could pick up some momentum before it began district play when the Indians traveled to MMA on Saturday.
Fortunately, his team responded with a solid defensive game plan to beat the Colonels 60-51.
“We came out today and were able to execute our defensive game plan to a ‘T,’” Connaway said.
Van-Far focused in on MMA’s best player and held him to just four points.
Offensively, the Indians outscored MMA 36-22 in the first half.
“Offensively in the first half, we were very good,” Connaway added. “We got out into transition and we attacked the rim. Nick (Barnes) ran the point probably better than he ever has.”
The Indians extended their lead to 22 points early in the third quarter before struggling. Kyle Decker hurt his nose and was forced to leave the game.
MMA outscored Van-Far 17-9 in the fourth but the Indians held on to win by nine points.
Van-Far only dressed seven players as they were playing their seventh game in nine days.
Barnes finished with 24 points while John Gerdeman scored a game-high 19 points.
“John had a terrific game on both ends of the floor and was a real difference maker inside…,” Connaway said.
On Senior Night, the Indians scored less than double digits in every quarter but the fourth in a 49-34 loss to North Callaway.
Barnes and Wyatt McDowell each made 3-pointers in the second quarter to put Van-Far within two points before the Thunderbirds ended the quarter on a 10-2 run.
Van-Far made just 13-of-40 shots from the field in the loss.
Barnes finished with 10 points, four steals, three rebounds, three assists, and one block.
Decker added five points, seven rebounds and one steal; Sharrod Connor had four points, three rebounds, and three assists; McDowell had three points and three rebounds; and Lucas Robinson had two points.
“We were able to keep them within striking distance in the second half, but weren’t ever able to get the lead to less than six,” Connaway said. “We would make a little run and then they would answer right back.”
Before the victory over MMA, the Indians started the week with a tough 58-53 loss to Wellsville.
Van-Far scored just six points in the first quarter before putting together a run in the second quarter to take a 25-24 halftime lead.
Wellsville took advantage of the Indians’ poor shooting and won the fourth quarter by six points before holding on for a five point victory.
The Indians made just 13-of-30 free throws in the loss.
“Our defense was a step or two behind, our shots were flat, we didn’t see the floor well, and our ball movement on offense wasn’t very crisp,” Connaway said.
“…We were beating them up inside and had them in foul trouble, but we got away from pounding the ball inside and starting settling for outside shots. The shots were open, but just weren’t falling.”
Barnes scored a team-high 21 points. Decker scored nine points and 12 rebounds; Robinson had eight points; Gerdeman scored seven points and 11 rebounds; Connor had four points; McDowell had three points; and Colson scored one point.
The Indians nearly upset one of the best Class 1 teams in the state when they took on Marion County.
Van-Far led 14-10 at the end of the first quarter.
Unfortunately, the Mustangs responded in the second quarter with 22 points to take a 32-27 halftime lead.
“We really defended well early and only gave up 10 points in the first, but in the second quarter we quit hedging ball screens and played too far off our their big kids in the paint and they really hurt us,” Connaway said.
Barnes picked up an assist on Connor’s layup with :52 seconds left in the game to tie things at 46.
Turnovers and fouls helped Marion County hold on for a 50-46 victory.
“It was a frustrating loss,” Connaway said.
“It was a game we could of and should have won, but just like the night before we didn’t play our best but we were still in the game and still had a chance to win. Marion County is a good ball club that beat Palmyra on Palmyra’s home court and we had a shot to beat them.