When the Van-Far boys basketball team opened the season with two losses, head coach Pat
saw a lot of positive things in those two losses to encourage him on the success his team could soon experience. With younger players gaining confidence and the return of leading scorer Nick Barnes from injury, the Indians have quickly become one of the more feared teams in the area.
The Indians took another big step this Monday when they participated in the Moberly Shootout and left the college gym with a 54-51 victory over Centralia.
The Panthers missed a 3-point shot at the buzzer. Van-Far has won four of its last five games.
“In the locker room, we talked about how big it is to win a game when you didn’t play particularly well and didn’t shoot the ball well,” Connaway said. “…We are getting better and better and are starting to build trust in one another. It was great to see Nick back in his first extended action and he seemed to look close to 100%.”
In a hard fought game that featured Van-Far’s speed and ability against Centralia’s size and strength, the Indians took an early lead.
Van-Far’s defense forced early turnovers and converted some easy layups to take a 20-12 first quarter lead.
The Panthers then began establishing themselves on the boards and won the second quarter 10-9 to cut the lead to seven.
“I think the bigger floor (94 feet compared to our normal 84) took a toll on us and wore us down a bit,” Connaway said. “Our pressure defense wasn’t nearly as effective.”
Van-Far’s offense went cold in the third quarter and Centralia took advantage by scoring 18 of the next 29 points to tie the game at 40.
Both teams went back-and-forth in the fourth quarter when the Indians took a five-point lead.
Centralia went up one with two minutes left when Barnes made a big 3-pointer followed by a jumper. The Indians were up two with :30 seconds left when Lathyn McMorris made two free throws. A late Centralia 3-pointer knocked the lead down to one when McMorris made two more big free throws as Van-Far went on to win the game.
“Lathyn was calm and cool and knocked down four huge free throws to seal the game after Nick had given us the lead,” Connaway added.
Barnes finished the game with 17 points, McMorris had 15, Josh Hodde scored 14 points, while both Brayden Christian and Wyatt McDowell scored four points.