When Clopton Tournament officials needed to add one school for a one year vacancy in their annual event, it was the perfect situation for Van-Far’s boys and girls basketball teams.
The annual Madison Tournament during the holidays folded late in scheduling, causing many districts to scramble to find another tournament.
The Indians answered the call and nearly made the most of their opportunity by winning two games and advancing to the championship before falling to Monroe City, 57-43, in the finals.
Next year, the Indians will be playing in Monroe City’s tournament that takes place in early December.
“I am pleased with our effort tonight and the progress we have shown,” said Van-Far head coach Pat Connaway after the championship game. “A good thing for us is, if we can do things right, we will have the opportunity to play them in the second round of the Palmyra tourney. Any time you get to play a bigger school and a state-ranked one at that you have the opportunity to improve…I would like to also thank Matt Cannon and Larry Lagerman for giving us the opportunity to compete in their tournament this year.”
Against a Panthers’ team that beat previously by 30, the Indians were looking to see how much they improved against the same opponent from November.
Monroe City led 31-21 at halftime before the Panthers held on late for a 14-point victory.
“This 14-point loss shows we have made significant improvement since the first game of the year,” Connaway said. “We aren’t where we want to be quite yet, but we are well on our way.”
While the Indians handled the Panthers’ pressure well and didn’t turn the ball over much, they struggled to execute.
Caden Wilburn led the team with 13 points and seven rebounds in the loss. Verlyn Johnson added eight points; Trey Miller had six points and four rebounds; and both Verdell Johnson and Dillion Minor had five points.
Minor had a big dunk on a missed free throw that got the Indians fans cheering loud.
In the semifinals, Van-Far overcame a slow first quarter start to dominate Elsberry, 74-44.
The Indians outscored Elsberry 18-7 in the second quarter to go up 30-22 at halftime. Van-Far then outscored them 44-22 in the second half to cruise to a win.
“Our pressure really bothered them and the points off turnovers were really the difference,” Connaway said. “It was a really big win for us…Caden had an outstanding all-around game tonight. Defensively, he held one of their best players to three points. Trey and Verlyn played very well also. Any time we get all three of them in double figures scoring we are going to win a lot of games.”
Caden Wilburn had 25 points and eight rebounds; Miller scored 15 points and seven rebounds; Verlyn Johnson added 11 points and nine rebounds; Colin Wilburn had eight points; and Verdell Johnson scored six points.
Van-Far outscored Elsberry 40-26 in the paint.
In the first round, Van-Far’s defense held Louisiana to two points in two quarters during a 64-29 victory.
After a 14 day lay off due to the holidays, the Indians couldn’t wait to get onto the court as they outscored the Bulldogs 17-2 in the first quarter.
Ten different Van-Far players scored in the win.
Both Miller and Verlyn Johnson had 10 points and seven rebounds; Caden Wilburn scored seven points; while Minor had seven points and nine rebounds.
Van-Far scored 42 points in the paint.