The Van-Far boys basketball team entered last week’s Class 2, District 5 Tournaments as winners of six of their previous eight games.
The Indians had a lot of momentum but unfortunately drew No. 3 seed Canton, perhaps the only other team playing basketball as good as Van-Far was just before districts.
In a battle of two hot teams, Canton proved to be just too much for Van-Far as the Indians lost 67-45. Canton went on to knock off No. 1 seed Louisiana to win the district championship.
The Indians made just 4-of-25 3-point shots, shot 36% from the field, and were outrebounded 40-27.
“Tonight wasn’t our night,” said Van-Far head coach Pat Connaway. “… Canton is a very quick and athletic team like we are and it’s hard to pressure and chase after them all the time and ultimately it wore us out. Our shots were flat and they all were coming up short…We knew coming in that Canton was the team to beat if we wanted to win a district championship and it’s unfortunate for us that we had to play the four-time district champs in the first round.”
Canton started the game on fire as they outscored the Indians 29-11 in the first quarter.
Van-Far’s match-up zone defense clamped down on Canton just before halftime holding them to only four points.
Unfortunately, Van-Far’s offense didn’t have the same success as it seemed like no shots were falling.
Van-Far did cut the lead to 12 points at halftime.
In the third quarter, both teams went back and forth before the Indians rallied to cut the lead to seven points with 4:48 left.
Once again, shots stopped falling and turnovers plagued Van-Far as Canton pushed their lead back to 16 heading into the final eight minutes.
Canton went on to win the game by 22 points.
Nick Barnes scored a team-high 15 points and four rebounds while Lathyn McMorris added 13 points and five rebounds.
Brayden Christian had 12 points and five rebounds; Josh Hodde was kept from the rim due to Canton’s focused defense as he had just four points and four rebounds; and Wyatt McDowell tallied one point and five rebounds.
The loss dropped Van-Far’s record to 12-13 overall.
In reflecting on the year, Connaway said his team faced adversity all season as due to injuries.
They were without Sharrod Connor and Trey Miller for the entire season.
They also didn’t have Barnes for the first five games of the year.
Van-Far’s underclassmen gained great experience that will help next year’s squad.
“It is really impressive the way these young men persevered and kept fighting with everything going on,” Connaway said.
“When you lose two of your top nine kids for the season and you still are in every game, it is a tribute to the way these young men play the game. We were in every game and never lost by more than 10 points until tonight. The future is very bright for Van-Far basketball and Coach (Brett) Reading and I are very excited for what the future holds with this group.”
The loss meant it was the final game for seniors Wyatt McDowell, Nick Barnes, and Trenton DeTienne.
“These three kids are three of the best young men coach and I have ever coached,” Connaway said.
“Never a minute’s trouble, accepted the roles given to them because they knew it was in the best interest of the team, and competed every day and every night. Wyatt is someone that will be hard to replace because of what he brought to us defensively, he sold his body out night after night. That is a toughness that someone will have to bring to this team. Trenton’s size and post presence will need to be replaced. We are a relatively small team so someone will have to step into the post and help fill this void. Nick has been our leading scorer the past few years and scored over 1,200 points in his career. Not only will the scoring need to be replaced, but his leadership and heart will need to be replaced. These kids and their parents have been a pleasure to work with the past four years and they will be sorely missed. We preach family and these kids will always be a part of our family and we expect to see their faces quite a bit in the future.”