For the first time in a decade, the Van-Far boys basketball team played for a tournament championship last Saturday as they faced a solid Salisbury in the Madison Tournament finals.
Unfortunately, the Panthers made a 13-0 run in the third quarter and never looked back in a 67-49 victory, giving the Indians the second place trophy.
“Salisbury is a very good team, but we showed we can play with them,” said Van-Far head coach Pat Connaway.
“It was a great step for our program and we are heading in the right direction. Playing in title games is what we want to do and now we need to keep getting better every day. Hopefully, this loss will make the kids even hungrier and really want to keep pushing to be in those types of games.”
In the first quarter, Caden Wilburn had five points and Trey Miller scored four points to help the Indians keep pace, trailing 16-11 at the end of the first quarter.
Lathyn McMorris picked up two early fouls in the first quarter sending him to the bench.
Though the defense was solid, the Indians’ offense couldn’t get a needed run and trailed by six at halftime.
Miller had nine points in the first half.
Salisbury went on their 13-0 run in the third quarter to push their lead to eight in spite of McMorris’ two 3-pointers and eight points.
The Panthers pushed their lead to as high as 18 points before the Indians put together a solid run to cut the lead to just eight.
Van-Far couldn’t get any closer in the eventual 18-point loss.
Miller led Van-Far with his second double-double of the tournament with 18 points, 14 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.
McMorris added 13 points, three steals, two rebounds, and one assist; Josh Hodde added eight points, five rebounds, four assists, and one steal; Wilburn had eight points and three rebounds; Brayden Christian tallied two points, six rebounds, five assists, and one steal; Parker Wallace had one rebound; and Treyson Culwell added two rebounds, and one steal.
Van-Far did win the rebounding battle 33-25 but lost the points in the paint battle 46-30.
There were 37 total free throws shot in the contest.
In the semifinals, the Indians took on a Class 5 Battle JV program led by former Van-Far coach Brian Meny and held off a late charge for a 52-44 win.
“The game was very physical and our kids handled it really well,” Connaway said.
“We stayed aggressive and were in attack mode most of the night.”
Van-Far led 26-20 at halftime in spite of making just 2-of-13 free throws in the first half.
Battle JV hung around in the second half keeping the game within 10 points for most of the night before the Van-Far Indians clawed out the win.
Hodde had a double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds while Miller had a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds.
McMorris added 10 points and six rebounds; Treyson Culwell added five points; and Christian had two points and eight rebounds.
In the first round, the Indians outscored Cairo 29-9 in the first quarter after starting on a 12-0 run. They also outscored Cairo 24-10 in the third quarter while never looking back in a 76-46 win.
The defensive pressure forced 24 turnovers that led to several easy baskets.
“I thought we moved the ball better on offense against their zone and really got some good looks,” Connaway said.
Van-Far won the battle in the paint 48-30 and was 6-for-18 from 3-point range.
Hodde led the Indians with 23 points and five rebounds; McMorris had 21 points and five rebounds; Christian had 12 points and five rebounds; Wilburn added seven points; Miller scored six points and six rebounds; Colten Jensen added four points; Dillion Minor had two points; Walter Salmon Jr. added one point; and Treyson Culwell pulled down five rebounds.