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Tournament Champs!

Posted on Thursday, February 1, 2024 at 8:21 pm

Van-Far boys defeat all comers during tournament play

By Brandie Gay

Coming off of a third-place Palmyra tournament finish, the Indians were hungry for a first-place finish in the 99th Annual Bowling Green Invitational Tournament.

Momentum is key for the Indians and their victories. Van-Far, seeded first, would match up against Silex. Coach Pat Connaway said Tuesday at the start of the tournament, “We wanted to come out and take it to Silex like we did back in December at home.” He added that, “In December, we won the first quarter 25 – 2. Tonight, we won the quarter 16 – 2, and won the second quarter 24 – 13.

Connaway noted that, “Then we took a 40 – 15 lead into the locker room, and with this, we were able to get stops and cruise to a first-round victory of 69 – 38! Offensively, Pacey Reading scored 19 points leading the team. Nikos Connaway scored 12. Carter Jennings scored 11, along with Kasen and Carson scoring 6 points each. Defensively, the leading rebounder, Nikos with 11, picking up 7 steals. Other rebounders would include Pacey Reading with 5 and Carson with 4.”

With a first-round win the second round would have the Indians match up against the Bowling Green Bobcats.

“Thursday, we knew it would be tough playing Bowling Green on their home court,” Connaway said, “and we had to be ready for the challenge, especially with the rivalry we have with them. We stressed getting off to a good start, and we did just that.”

He added that, “We won the first quarter 19 – 9 and were able to hold a 10-point lead heading into the locker room.” At the half, Connaway said, “We talked about not being focused, we lost Jace (Eskew) once and didn’t hedge on 2-ball screens and he made us pay. Jace had 15 of his 18 in the first half. Nikos did a great job guarding him in the second half, making him work for everything. and our help was there the entire half. We outscored them 35 – 19 in the second half and cruised to a 26-point victory.”

With this win, it would be the biggest victory Van-Far has posted since Dec. 14, 2023. Van-Far has won seven of their last eight games. For the second time, Pacey Reading led the Indians scoring 27 points in the match up against Bowling Green. Additional scorers were Gage Gibson with 10, Gavin Gaston with 8, Nikos with 7, Carson and Carter scored 6 points each. Connaway led the Indians in assists with 7 and Reading with 5, along with 3 steals for each of them.

Saturday, the championship game would be Van-Far against the second seed, Clopton. The last time these two met was February 2023. Van-Far came out on top. Van-Far was led to victory by Pacey Reading and Nikos Connaway. Reading scored 16 points along with five rebounds, while Connaway scored 19 points along with 8 rebounds and 2 steals. Connaway is on a roll when it comes to steals, as he has now grabbed two or more in the last six games he’s played.

Another player making a difference was Carter Jennings, who scored 6 points along with 5 rebounds.

Coach Connaway said, “We knew this would be a dog fight, and we needed to step up and meet the challenge. Clopton has won our district the past couple of years, and we want to get where they have been, and in order to get there you have to get past them.

“In the first half, we weren’t really aggressive, and we settled for shooting a lot of 3s. Clopton outscored us 16 – 8 in the second quarter to take a 28 – 23 lead into the locker room.”

“At the half we stressed our focus and commitment to defense,” he said. “Our target for a game is 45 points or less and we gave up 28 in the first half. We also talked about attacking the rim, hitting the offensive and defensive boards, pushing tempo and we challenged them to match the physicality like we did a week ago versus. Monroe.

“The first possession of the third quarter, NJ gets a steal and a layup then we get another steal and Pacey scores to cut the lead to 1 in the first 30 seconds of the third,” Connaway added. “Our defense was tremendous in the second, as we outscored Clopton 39 – 18, and were able to win our first tourney title since 2018.

He added that, “We are pretty good when we defend, and if we can do it for a full game, we will be a very good ball club. In the second half of the semi-finals and championship games we gave up a combined total of 37 points in 32 minutes of basketball, and for the tournament we only gave up 124 points in three games. That is a winning formula we need to bottle up.”

Coach Pat Connaway remarked how proud he was of the team.

“I’m very proud of these kids and the way they play for each other. They are a very tight-knit group, and they are having fun right now. We also were blessed to have two kids make the All-Tournament team—Nikos and Pacey who was named MVP of the tournament. Pacey had a tremendous week and is really stepping up being that second scoring option we have been searching for, for a few years.

“We have a lot of work to do to get where we want to be. We have nine more games to get there before Districts start,” Connaway added. “But now we need to shift our focus to Montgomery County. We travel there this Thursday for a very big EMO conference battle. MoCo is the best in the conference, and this will be a test to see where we are.”

Pacey Reading was exuberant about being named to the All-Tournament Team and MVP as a sophomore.

“It feels good!” he said. “This week was very fun! I shot the ball really well. Being named All-Tournament and MVP, is a very good accomplishment that I am pleased with. It’s always fun playing Bowling Green, and Clopton was a very good ball team, and hopefully we see them down the road, it should be fun!”

Also named to the All-Tournament team was Nikos Connaway. He said the thought the team played well during the tournament.

“This was one of our goals at the beginning of the year,” he said, “so, it’s a huge momentum boost for our team. Being my senior year, it makes it a little extra special winning my last Bowling Green tournament and it makes it even more special having all of my best friends with me!”

The Van-Far Indians traveled to Montgomery City on Tuesday.