Entering their final two games of the Madison Tournament without leading scorer Lathyn McMorris, Van-Far head coach Pat Connaway knew the remainder of his players would have to rally together if they were going to pick up two more wins for the program’s first tournament championship in more than 10 years.
The task became even more challenging when Van-Far had a one-point lead entering the fourth quarter and starter Trey Miller re-aggravated his knee and missed the remainder of the finals.
With Verlyn Johnson and Riley Culwell sent down from varsity to help the JV team, the Indians were shorthanded.
In spite of the adversity, Van-Far’s players held on until overtime and eventually picked up a 74-70 win in OT over Mark Twain to seal the title.
“I was so proud the boys and their effort,” Connaway said. “It’s not easy when you don’t have one starter (Lathyn) who is averaging 25 points a game, but when you lose a second starter early in the fourth, it shows a lot about your bench and the kids character. It was a total team win and the kids ought to be proud of themselves. I have to give credit to all of them for sharing the ball and we had great balance in the last two games, but tonight’s balance in scoring was incredible.”
In the overtime session, the Indians were aggressive and went up nine points. Van-Far made just 12-of-23 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
They made just 23-of-42 in the game.
“Those misses kept them in the game, but fortunately for us we made just enough to get out of there with a ‘W,’” Connaway added.
Early in the game, the Indians led by two at the end of the first quarter in spite of Tigers’ post player Grant Peters scoring 10 points. Mark Twain was up three at halftime before the Indians outscored Mark Twain 32-29 in the second half before overtime.
Offensively, the Indians made just 23-of-75 shots from the field and 5-of-20 3-point attempts in the win.
Brayden Christian led the Indians with a double-double of 18 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists while Josh Hodde had a double-double of 16 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists.
Miller had 10 points and six rebounds before exiting in the fourth. Colten Jensen scored nine points; both Colin and Caden Wilburn scored eight points; and Treyson Culwell had five points.
In the semifinals, the Indians had a rematch with rival Community R-VI.
Defensively, the Indians were sharp as they only allowed 12 points in the first half and 32 in the game for a 45-32 win.
With a 13-day layoff between games due to the Christmas holiday, the offense struggled.
Fortunately, the Indians created several turnovers in the second quarter to outscore the Trojans 18-5 to take a 27-12 halftime edge.
Community R-VI’s defense responded in the third quarter, holding the Indians to just five points.
Van-Far rallied for a 13-9 fourth quarter in the 13-point win.
The Indians made just 1-of-12 3-point shots in the win.
Miller scored 11 points and eight rebounds; Caden Wilburn scored 11 points, six rebounds; and three assists; Hodde had eight points, seven rebounds, and three assists; Christian had seven points, six rebounds, and four assists; Colin Wilburn had six points; and Dillion Minor added two points.