The Van-Far Indians had a tough stretch of three games last week against teams in close proximity to Vandalia.
Fortunately, the Indians managed to pick up two wins and nearly had a sweep if it wasn’t for the perimeter shooting of another Audrain County school on Courtwarming.
Van-Far needed the energy of a packed gym during the “Paint It Pink/Pink Out” game against EMO Conference foe Wellsville-Middletown.
Point guard Josh Hodde left the game early in the second quarter when he rolled his ankle just moments after scoring all 10 of his points in the first 10 minutes of the contest.
Lathyn McMorris and Hodde, while he was still in the game, helped the Indians outscore the Tigers 22-14 in the second quarter to take a 43-32 halftime lead.
The Tigers responded in the third quarter with an 18-point frame while their 1-3-1 zone defense hurt the Indians.
The game went back-and-forth in the fourth quarter.
A Van-Far turnover with 1.7 seconds left in the game forced overtime as Wellsville-Middletown outscored the Indians 38-29 in the second half.
In overtime, the Indians’ defense held the Tigers to just six points in the four-minute extra quarter.
Brayden Christian made several key free throws to secure the win. The Tigers launched a 3-point shot at the buzzer that didn’t hit iron due to the Indians’ perimeter defense.
“It was a really good win for us and to win with Josh spending most of the game on the bench,” said Van-Far head coach Pat Connaway. “Several kids stepped up and played huge minutes in his absence.”
Trey Miller led Van-Far with a double-double after scoring 24 of his 30 points in the second half while adding 11 rebounds; McMorris added 26 points; Christian had a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds; Hodde had 10 points; and Sharrod Connor had six rebounds.
Van-Far made 24-of-34 free throws in the win.
Leaving Bowling Green with a big win
The Indians improved their EMO Conference record to an impressive 7-1 last week when they traveled to Bowling Green and dominated the Bobcats late in a 70-55 victory.
“The second half is the way we need to play if we want to be a good team,” Connaway said. “We were focused and executed well. We still didn’t shoot the ball well from three. We were 3-for-15 from behind the arc and most, if not all, were good wide open looks. We’ve got to start shooting the ball better from the perimeter. The one positive from last year is we have been able to score in other ways when we aren’t shooting the ball well. Our ability to score points in the paint has been huge this year.”
The Indians offense was flat early against the Bobcats as Bowling Green had the tempo in the first half for a 25-24 lead.
The defense was key for the Indians in the first half while the offense struggled.
“I was pleased with our defensive effort as we held them to 25 points in the half,” Connaway noted. “A big difference between this year and last is when we haven’t played well we’re still in the game where we would have gotten buried in years past.”
Hodde scored 10 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter while McMorris had 11 of his 22 in the same quarter to help Van-Far outscore Bowling Green, 25-11.
The Indians took a commanding lead as they were focused and executed well in the 15-point win.
Hodde had 24 points and five rebounds; McMorris added 122 points and six rebounds; Miller had a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds; Christian chipped in seven points and six rebounds; and Parker Wallace had two points.
Van-Far shot 45% from the field in the win and won the points in the paint battle, 42-28.
Tough loss to MMA
Many Van-Far fans were surprised to see a much-improved MMA team come to Vandalia on the Indians’ Courtwarming night.
MMA’s perimeter shooting was too much in the end as they made 10-of-23 shots from behind the arc, including one at the buzzer, to win the game 75-71.
Van-far made just 10-of-21 free throws in the loss including making just 4-of-13 in the second half.
“It was a very disappointing loss,” Connaway said. “MMA is a very good team and is one of the better teams we played, but until we start making free throws, shooting the ball better from the arc, and getting stops, we are going to struggle. We lost this game tonight at the free throw line…We are too good of shooters to miss that many free throws. We continue to struggle from the perimeter also. For the second straight night we were 3-for-15 from three and for the week we were 10-for-45 from behind the arc. Even with all these struggles, we still scored 70 points or more in all three games. When you score 70+ in a high school game, you should win the game. Our defense has to get better and that’s the truth. We have got to start getting stops and quit letting teams shoot 49-50% from the floor.”
MMA opened the game on a 7-0 run after taking advantage of five Van-Far turnovers while making five 3-pointers in the first quarter to stun Van-Far early, 23-13.
The Indians climbed back before halftime with a 7-0 run. Hodde scored 10 points in the quarter to give Van-Far a 37-34 halftime lead.
The Indians won the second quarter, 24-11.
“At half, we knew we were in for a dog fight,” Connaway noted. “We were struggling again from the perimeter and weren’t defending the way we ought to be. We are having a really hard time staying in front of people lately and we are getting beat on dribble penetration, which puts too much stress on our defense.”
Both teams traded baskets in an explosive third quarter as the two teams combined to score 39 points.
Miller paced Van-Far with nine points and McMorris added seven.
Up 69-65, Van-Far had a lead until MMA made a 7-0 run to go up by three points.
After McMorris missed a 3-point shot, Christian put his rebound back up and in to cut the lead to 72-71 with 29.5 seconds left.
After picking up a steal, Van-Far then turned the ball over on an in-bounds play.
After a missed free throw, the Indians set up a final shot with a time out with seven seconds left in the game.
Hodde’s shot just rimmed out. MMA pushed the ball up the court and shot a 3-pointer around mid-court at the buzzer to seal the win.
MMA made 33-of-64 shots from the field in the win.
Miller had a double-double of 23 points, 11 rebounds, three steals, two blocks, and one assist.
McMorris tallied 19 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and four steals; Hodde added 16 points, seven rebounds, one steal, and one assist; Christian scored 10 points, seven rebounds, one assist, and one steal; Caden Wilburn added three points, seven rebounds, three assists, and one steal; and Connor tallied four rebounds, three assists, and one steal.