While the Van-Far Indians were pleased with an offense that scored 163 in two EMO Conference games last week, a defense that also allowed 163 points caused them to split games with Mark Twain and Montgomery County.
“We need to figure out how to keep playing fast, but sew up our defense,” said Van-Far head coach Pat Connaway. “We can’t expect to score around 80 a night and be in a dog fight. If we score 80, we ought to cruise to a victory and in our two games this week we scored 163 points, but we also gave up 163 points and went 1-1. I love the way we are playing offensively right now, but defense will be our focus the next two weeks before districts starts.”
Against Mark Twain, the Indians jumped out to a solid 21-15 first quarter lead before Mark Twain gained momentum with its home crowd to tie the game at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Tigers led most of the quarter and hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to go up by five points.
Mark Twain pushed their lead to 10 with just under six minutes left when the Indians took control of the game. Sharrod Connor hit a big shot while the full-court defense forced several turnovers that led to easy baskets. Van-Far went 8-for-8 from the free throw line during a big stretch and was 9-of-11 in the quarter.
Josh Hodde and Lathyn McMorris each hit big free throws in the final :30 seconds to seal the five-point victory.
“What really impresses me with this win and this team is the grit, toughness, and will to win,” Connaway said. “We kept fighting and chipping away until we got the lead and then we sealed it from the free throw line.”
Six Van-Far players finished in double figures with 19 assists on 28 field goals.
“The difference between this year’s team and last year’s is our ability to score in the paint,” Connaway said. “We haven’t shot the ball well from the perimeter all year, but we still keep finding ways to score. Our ability to score in the paint is huge and the ability to get to the free throw line is something we couldn’t do last year. We were strictly a perimeter based team and if we were to shoot 1-10 from ‘3’ in the past we would have lost, but this year we can get buckets other ways and can get buckets from several different people. Our balance is really good.”
The Indians won the battle in the paint, 50-34, and made 21-of-31 free throws. Hodde led the Indians with 17 points; McMorris had 16 points; Trey Miller added 15 points and seven rebounds; Caden Wilburn scored 10 points and six rebounds; Brayden Christian tallied nine points and 10 rebounds; Connor had eight points; and Treyson Culwell added three points.
Tough loss to
Van-Far lost a game with a fast and furious pace, 90-85, to Montgomery County last Monday night. In spite of winning almost every statistical category except for field goal percentage, the Indians lost the game.
“It was a very disappointing loss,” Connaway said. “We missed a lot of second-chance points and left some buckets out there. We got off a season-high 86 field goal attempts. That is more shots attempts than most teams get off in two games. I thought we really attacked them and forced the issue tonight.”
As for free throws, the Wildcats had 18 more of them in the second half while the Indians took just three free throw shots.
The Indians won the rebounding battle 54-24 and won the battle in the paint, 60-46, in the loss.
Van-Far led 23-21 early and pushed their edge to eight points at halftime.
Montgomery County dominated the third quarter with 31 points before holding on late for the five point win.
Six Indians scored in double figures with three of them having double-doubles in the loss.
“Any time you can share the basketball like that your playing very well,” Connaway said. “Caden was one board and two assists away from a triple-double. All the kids played their hearts out and coach and I are very proud of them.”
Hodde scored 24 points; Miller had 19 points and nine rebounds; Wilburn tallied 11 points and nine rebounds; Connor scored 11 points and 11 rebounds; Christian had 10 points and 12 rebounds; and McMorris scored 10 points.