The Van-Far Indians were hoping to make their Courtwarming a special one last week when they entered their contest with Marion County. Unfortunately, the No. 8 ranked team in Class 1 was too much for the Indians in a 57-28 defeat.
Van-Far fed off their biggest home crowd of the season in the first quarter as they jumped out to a 5-0 lead behind Ryan Teague’s 3-pointer and an inside basket by Brian Kurz.
The Indians then struggled as they turned the ball over nine times and found themselves trailing by two points before Logan Boyd added a late basket to tie the game at seven heading into the second quarter.
Marion County tried to pull away early in the before an Indians’ 6-0 run gave Van-Far a two point edge. The Mustangs responded with a 7-0 run of their own and their four 3-pointers paced them to a 25-18 halftime lead. The Indians turned the ball over 16 times in the first half to Marion County’s four.
“We came out really hyped up,” said Van-Far head coach Pat Connaway. “We had the biggest crowd we have had all year and we really fed off of their energy early. Our defensive pressure was really good in the first quarter. We really made sure we knew where their shooters were, but once we started to struggle offensively we let that affect the way we defended. We forgot who we were guarding and they made us pay.”
The Mustangs pulled away in the third quarter behind four more 3-pointers as a 10-0 run helped them push their lead to 22 points.
Van-Far made just 2-of-9 shots from the field in the final eight minutes as they lost the game by 29. The Indians turned the ball over 31 times while Marion County made 10-of-23 3-point attempts. Marion County also won the battle of bench players, 16-2.
“Our effort wasn’t there,” Connaway said. “I think ‘we quit’ out there. Mentally we were done, it was like ‘here we go again’. We stopped defending, they out hustled us to every loose ball, every rebound, and just flat out hit shots.”
Brian Kurz led Van-Far with 10 points, six rebounds, and two steals while Ethan Gooch added four points, seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Ryan Teague added five points, two assists, and one rebound; Alex Culver scored four points and two rebounds; Boyd had two points and three rebounds; Ryan Nelson scored two points and five rebounds; Kyle Decker had two rebounds; John Gerdeman added one steal and one assist; Cody Stubblefield had one rebound; Richard Carpenter added one rebound; and Brett Hubert had one rebound.
“One positive of the night was getting Alex Culver back,” Connaway said. “Alex has been out for over a week with a rib injury. I thought he played well tonight, he didn’t turn the ball over, scored four points, grabbed a couple boards, and held their best scorer Clay Pollard to six points, all in the second half.”
Earlier in the week, the Indians saw their hopes of winning an EMO Small Conference title likely come to an end in a 63-54 loss to Clopton.
The Hawks jumped out to a 17-7 first quarter lead before the Indians outscored Clopton 30-28 over the next two quarters. Clopton extended their lead to 13 points in the third quarter. Van-Far managed to cut the lead to three with two minutes left in the game. The Indians missed on their chance to tie the game, missed a 3-point attempt, and had a couple of key turnovers that doomed them late in the nine point loss.
“Defensively we didn’t play well at all,” Connaway said. “We talked about keeping them under 40 and we gave up 34 points in the first half. Our help side defense wasn’t there all night, we were slow to rotate over and they scored several second chance points. Offensively, we struggled handling their pressure early, but once we figured it out we really were able to get some easy baskets.”
Gooch led Van-Far with 15 points, Nelson had 13, Kurz scored 12, Teague added eight, and Boyd scored six.