It had been more than 40 years since the Van-Far boys basketball team won the EMO Conference regular season title outright.
Though they did win the championship in back-to-back years in 2004 and 2005, at that time, the conference was split into small and large divisions.
The long outright title drought came to an end last week after the Indians picked up two final victories to move their record to 9-1 in the EMO Conference to clinch the regular season crown.
Van-Far’s clinching win came on Senior Night against Clopton as seniors Colten Jensen, Lathyn McMorris, Brayden Christian, and Josh Hodde won their final home game.
“I can’t say enough about my four seniors,” said Van-Far head coach Pat Connaway.
“They are tremendous kids and are our team leaders. It was a great way for them to cap off their last ball game on our floor. They will remember this night as the night they finished off an undefeated year at home and also as the night they clinched the outright conference championship!…This is a great accomplishment and the team ought to be very proud of what they have accomplished so far.”
The win over the Hawks last Friday night came during an emotional evening.
The night included a “Pink Out” event for cancer awareness to remember those lost in the battle and to recognize cancer survivors.
A 1,000 Point Club Banner was dedicated by the Van-Far Booster Club in memory of the late Alan Barnes.
And it was also the final game for seniors on their home court.
“We had an amazing crowd and everyone in the gym knew a victory would give us the EMO Conference Championship,” Connaway said. “I think the boys were a little amped up coming out of the gates and really wanted to impress the big crowd. We played with a lot of offensive energy, but defensively we weren’t as active as we had been.”
Van-Far opened the game with a 17-point first quarter with the help of Verlyn Johnson’s spark coming off the bench.
“He really ignited the entire building,” Connaway noted. “He was active defensively and was really active on the boards.”
The Indians pushed their lead to 13 at halftime as McMorris made two 3-pointers and Brayden Christian added one 3-pointer.
Van-Far pulled away in the third quarter as Trey Miller, McMorris, and Hodde combined to score 19 of the team’s 20 points.
Up 21 points heading into the fourth quarter, the bench players sealed the win as five players scored 16 of the team’s 19 points.
McMorris led the Indians with 27 points and six rebounds; Hodde had 12 points, five rebounds, and five assists; Miller scored 10 points; Dillion Minor had six points; Christian had six assists and five rebounds; while Caden Wilburn had four assists.
Van-Far made 12-of-18 free throws in the win and shot 49% from the field.
Earlier in the week, the Indians’ offense set the tempo early and fought off Wright City’s zone defense behind McMorris’ three 3-pointers to open with a 10-point lead at the end of the first quarter.
Van-Far’s defense kept Wright City’s offense off balance in the second quarter. Meanwhile, six different Indians scored to pace the Indians to a 34-17 halftime edge.
McMorris came out of halftime by nailing four 3-pointers in the third quarter to score 14 of his game-high 25 points in the frame.
Van-Far went up by 24 points and cruised to a 78-50 win.
McMorris finished the game with 25 points and three assists; Hodde had nine points, seven assists, and five rebounds; Miller scored nine points, 15 rebounds, and three assists; Christian tallied nine points and seven rebounds; Dillion Minor scored seven points; and Caden Wilburn had three assists.
Van-Far shot 46.2% from the field in the win and made 9-of-26 3-point shots along with 9-of-17 free throws.