Entering its first round district game, Van-Far head coach Blake Logan knew his team would have to play nearly perfect to advance past No. 3 seed Paris. The Lady Indians were coming off a regular season finale loss to Community R-VI, a team that had lost two times to the Lady Coyotes this season.
Logan’s squad responded to the challenge and fed off the energy from its home crowd to upset Paris 45-36.
“I’m hoping that can take us a little farther,” Logan said about the energy of the home crowd. “…This (game) had a special feel to it….”
Paris’ 3-point shooting paced the Lady Coyotes in the first quarter as they made three to take a 12-11 lead in spite of Kasey Gatson’s seven points.
Early in the second quarter, Gatson made two straight baskets for a 5-0 run to put the Lady Indians ahead 18-14. Immediately, Paris responded with a 7-0 run to help push them ahead by three points at halftime.
When MaKenzie Wallace scored the final basket in the first half, little did she know it would be the start of a 12-0 run that would help give the Lady Indians control of the game.
Jessie Fowler and Wallace each made 3-pointers during a 16-3 run at the beginning of the third quarter to give Van-Far a 30-23 edge.
Paris did make two 3-pointers to keep the lead no more than eight points, but Van-Far managed to maintain a five point edge heading into the fourth quarter.
“Shots were falling; everything went our way coming out of halftime,” Logan said about his team that made 7-of-13 shots from the field in the third quarter. “Early on we were a little flat footed but we came out (later) with a little spunk and took it the distance.”
The Lady Coyotes did cut the lead to four points with 4:26 remaining in the game but that was the closest they would get.
Van-Far struggled at the free throw line as they made just 5-of-11 shots down the stretch. Gatson made two with 29.5 seconds remaining and Jenise Johnson added the final two with 13.5 second left to seal the win.
Logan said he was proud of his defense as they held Paris’ leading scorer Payton Gruber to just five points as Gruber made just 2-of-12 shots from the field.
“I told (Kasey) you don’t want to play your last game on the bench (after fouling out),” Logan said. “She played smart. I told the girls if we keep that girl under 10 points, we will win the game and we did.”
A couple of key baskets in the game was Nelson’s step up jumper in the third and Brookins two pointer with 3:12 left for the final Lady Indians’ make from the field in the win.
Gatson led the Lady Indians with 19 points, five assists, three steals, two rebounds, and one block while Wallace added 10 points, one steal, one assist, and one rebound. Jenise Johnson tallied six points, five rebounds, and two assists; Fowler added five points, seven rebounds, one steal, and one block; Rachel Nelson scored two points, six rebounds, and one assist; Brooke Johnson scored two points, six rebounds, and one block; and Jaselle Brookins scored two points and three rebounds.
“Rachel stepped up really well,” Logan said. “She’s giving us really good minutes…Jaselle came in energized, plus she’s a real strong girl.”
Van-Far’s win advances the Lady Indians to the district semifinals for a rematch with Silex. The Lady Indians beat the Lady Owls 47-46 in their last meeting. The district game will be played at 6 p.m. Wednesday, February 29.