Entering last week’s schedule that included games against EMO Conference rivals Silex and Bowling Green, the Van-Far Indians and head coach Pat Connaway knew they would have to play inspired basketball to pick up two confidence-building victories.
Van-Far responded to the challenge after beating both teams by a combined score of 97-68, helping the Indians fight its way to a No. 5 seed in the Class 2, District 5 Tournament.
“Hopefully after getting two big wins this week we will start building that confidence,” Connaway said. “We haven’t arrived by any means, but we are starting to play good basketball. If we can continue to play hard for 32 minutes, we are going to be able to string some wins together down the stretch which will be huge as we prepare to host districts in a few weeks.”
Against Silex, Van-Far’s defense set the tone as the Indians held the Owls to nine points or less in all four quarters.
Van-Far led 13-5 at the end of the first quarter and 23-13 at halftime before holding on for the 17-point victory.
“Tonight we came right out from the start and had great effort,” Connaway said. “…Our defensive intensity was the best it has been all year. We were able to force them into bad decisions and very tough shots. Offensively, we weren’t our best but we were aggressive and attacked the basket, hit the boards, and got to the free throw line…”
Brian Kurz dominated the inside with 14 points and 21 rebounds as the Indians won the rebounding battle 51-38. Van-Far finished with 21 offensive rebounds.
“The big guys were very active and crashed the boards hard,” Connaway said. “…This by far was Brian’s best all-around game. He was active on both ends and really dominated the boards.”
Ethan Gooch finished with 13 points, Ryan Teague had nine points, Ryan Nelson scored seven points, while both Logan Boyd and Alex Culver scored two points.
Culver’s defense was key as he held Silex’s top scorer to just four points while Nelson shut out Silex’s best post player and second leading scorer. Teague was also noted for his defense while Gooch was credited for handling the ball and attacking the rim.
The Owls turned the ball over 23 times in the loss.
Just a few games removed from a consolation semifinal loss to Bowling Green in the Bobcats own tournament, the Indians were looking for revenge last week and they found it in a 50-38 victory.
In the first half, the Indians let Boeling Green dictate the pace of the game as Van-Far missed several easy baskets and failed to get needed second chance points. In spite of making just 3-of-10 free throws, the Indians trailed only by one point at halftime.
“I told the boys we played a horrible half of basketball,” Connaway said. “We didn’t have that max effort like we talked about before the game, but I told them on the bright side if we would have played a half like this three or four weeks ago we would have been down 15 or 20 points instead of one.”
Bowling Green moved their lead to seven early in the second half when Connaway called a timeout which resulted in things clicking for the Indians.
Van-Far finished the third quarter on a 17-3 run that ended when Gooch banked in a 3-pointer from 55 feet away for a 35-28 lead.
“We started executing on the offensive end, dominating the boards, and we also turned up our defensive intensity,” Connaway said.
Van-Far stretched the lead to double figures in the fourth behind Nelson and Kurz before holding on for the 12-point victory. The Indians outscored Bowling Green 35-22 in the second half.
Van-Far made just 14-of-30 free throws in the game.
“We really could have put this one away if we were able to make free throws,” Connaway said.
Kurz and Gooch each scored 13 points, Nelson had 10 points, Teague scored eight points, Boyd added five points, and Culver scored one point.