When down 15 points in the third quarter of last Saturday’s state quarterfinal against Milan, it appeared the season was about to be over for the Van-Far boys basketball team.
Fortunately, this group of young men never gave up.
They picked up their aggression, and with the help of a large and loud Van-Far crowd that traveled to Moberly, forced overtime before punching their first ticket to the Final Four in more than a decade.
The atmosphere was electric and the players and coaches showed a lot of genuine emotion after the big win.
I just stood on the court taking pictures and enjoyed watching all of the special moments between fans, coaches, their families, and the players.
I just felt like a sponge taking it all in. I was just happy for everyone who was there.
I was really happy for coaches Pat Connaway and Brett Reading. These guys work so hard to put these boys in their best position to win ball games. I don’t think many of us really appreciate the hours they invest into this program and into these young men.
Through the past several years, the program has had their highs and their lows but you always knew the potential for something great was there. It was just a matter of everything coming together at the right time.
Well, it has…
These boys are now just two wins away from winning a possible second state championship in school history.
As they won the other day, I’m sure many of the fans and family members were like me, reflecting on the journey of these players through the past several years.
I can remember when many of them spent some of their winter with me helping our adopted son Dylan play YMCA basketball in Junior High.
I had the pleasure of “coaching” them, if that’s what you call it. I did try to teach them a couple of sets and I did so rather poorly, but it was a lot of fun.
What I remember most was I had at least seven of these boys on that team and all of them were the most pleasant young men to be around.
Even back then, they put others before themselves, they were talented, and you just knew there was something special that was going to happen with that group.
I also think about the experience many of these players gained by participating in the summer camp at Kansas State University.
When I heard this group made it to the finals this past summer and nearly beat a large school team from Kansas, my first thought was this team might indeed be able to make a run this year.
Throughout the season, this team grew from adversity battling injuries and seemed to always just find a way to win.
Who was I or any of us to start doubting when down 15 that Saturday’s game would turn out any different?
Perhaps the first half officiating had something to do with our doubt but it wasn’t an excuse. It was just another hill to climb and more adversity for this group to battle through.
This team never gave up, the coaches never gave up, and the fans never gave up.
It was one big team effort and now we all get to continue enjoying this ride the Indians are taking this community on.
Though records mean absolutely nothing in the Final Four, it’s important to note that the Indians have the best record among the remaining Final Four teams.
Van-Far will take on Mid-Buchanan this Thursday at 8:30 p.m. in Springfield, Mo. at Missouri State University.
Mid-Buchnanan (26-4) is located in Faucett, Mo., which is just south of St. Joseph.
The other teams are Hayti (22-5) and Purdy (24-6). Hayti is in southeast Missouri in the boot heel. Purdy is in the direction of Joplin but located just north of Cassville.
I personally have covered tons of games in John Q Hammons (JQH) Arena when I worked for a newspaper in Christian County.
Fans will really love the experience this arena offers.
The seats feel closer to the court than they do at Mizzou.
The place is perfect for a smaller crowd that gets loud and offers a great noisy atmosphere when the fan bases get into it.
This ride has sure been enjoyable so far.
I’m so happy for these players, the coaches, and the fans to get another trip to state.
And here’s hoping this journey ends like the last time the Indians made it this far, and that’s leaving state with a championship.
We are, Van-Far!…