Van-Far head boys basketball coach Pat Connaway was hoping his Indians could leave the Palmyra Tournament last week with a trophy.
Unfortunately, the Indians ran into No. 1 seed Palmyra and Monroe City, picking up two losses.
Connaway was pleased with how his team finished the week at practice.
“On Thursday and Friday we had two of the best practices we have had and they are starting to shoot the ball with confidence,” he said. “If we can translate what we did in practice into the game on Tuesday against No. 1 seed Elsberry I think it will be a very close game. Our goal is to be playing on Saturday in the Bowling Green Tourney and to bring home some hardware.”
In the opening round game against former Van-Far coach Brian Meny’s host Panthers, Palmyra jumped out to a 27-8 first quarter lead.
The Indians were able to find a groove before halftime with a 16-point second quarter but trailed 49-24.
Van-Far shot just six free throws in the first half as they were unable to slow down Palmyra’s transition offense.
“We talked in the locker room before the game that we couldn’t get into a track meet with them,” Connaway added. “We needed to take care of the ball and run our offense. We were expecting full court man to man, but instead they ran a half court 1-2-2 zone trap against us. For the most part we handled the ball very well, we didn’t turn it over too much, but we let them speed us up. We took very quick shots off of one pass and we rushed those shots. We pretty well got every look we wanted, but unfortunately we weren’t able to make shots and the only way to slow them down is to either put the ball in the hole or get to the foul line.”
Palmyra outscored Van-Far 31-11 in the second half to cruise to the 80-35 win.
Palmyra made 12 3-pointers while Van-Far made just 2-of-18, 3-point shots.
Nick Barnes led the Indians with 10 points. Kyle Decker added eight points, John Gerdeman had seven, Sharrod Connor scored six points, Wyatt McDowell added two points, while Lucas Robinson and Woodrow Jackson each had one point.
In the consolation semifinals against Monroe City, Van-Far jumped out to a 13-12 first quarter lead behind Barnes’ eight of his team-high 18 points.
Foul trouble hit the Indians in the second quarter as McDowell, Gerdeman, and Robinson each went to the bench with three fouls. With just eight players in uniform, the Panthers took advantage of the Indians’ challenges and led 24-19 at halftime.
“At half time we talked about not fouling and being smart on defense,” Connaway said. “Most of our fouls in the first half were bail out fouls (fouls where they had no where to go and we fouled them anyway). I was really pleased with the effort and intensity we played with. We held a good offensive team to 24 points in the first half and we told them if we could duplicate that performance in the second half we would be right there in it at the end.”
Connor hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to three points with 1:43 remaining. Turnovers plagued the Indians late as well as their free throw shooting. Van-Far made just 2-of-10 free throws in the fourth and 4-of-13 in the game.
Monroe City made their free throws and hit a 3-pointer in the final minute to seal the victory.
“After the game the kids were disappointed, but had a look on their faces that showed me they knew that was a game we should have won,” Connaway said. “If we keep working as hard in practice as we have been the past two weeks and if we play as hard defensively as we did tonight we are going to start getting the results in the win column we want.”
Barnes scored 18 points while Decker had nine points and 12 rebounds. Connor scored six points, Gerdeman had four points with 10 rebounds, and McDowell scored three points.