With several younger players and several guys out due to injuries, Van-Far head boys basketball coach was uncertain how his team would respond in opening contests against South Callaway and Louisiana.
While they picked up a pair of seven point losses, many positives came from these two early games.
“The injuries we have right now are only going to make us better down the stretch when those guys do get back,” Connaway said. “Ironically, the difference in the points off turnovers have basically been the difference in both games this week so if we start taking care of the basketball better and cut our turnovers down we will be just fine.”
In the Indians home opener, the emotion of starting a new season caused the young Indians squad to be a little nervous early on.
South Callaway hit four 3-pointers in the first to take a 20-13 lead.
The Indians struggled on offense in the second quarter and trailed 31-24 at halftime.
“Offensively we never could get going in the first half,” Connaway said. “We took some bad shots and made several bad decisions which led to a lot of unforced turnovers.”
In the locker room at halftime, the coaching staff knew the team had a chance for a win if the Indians’ defense could hold the Bulldogs to 50 points.
Van-Far’s players responded by trimming the lead to three with four seconds left in the third quarter before South Callaway hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to push things back to six.
“I think that shot at the end of the third really took the wind out of our sails,” Connaway said.
In the fourth quarter, senior Wyatt McDowell fouled out with more then seven minutes left.
The Indians did rally to cut the lead to 46-44 with two minutes remaining turnovers and a failure to reach the free throw line hurt them in the end.
Van-Far did outrebound South Callaway and scored more points in the paint in the loss. These were two areas the team struggled in last season.
Van-Far made 20-of-54 shots from the field but just 3-of-13 3-point attempts.
The Indians had 18 turnovers in the loss as South Callaway scored 18 points off of them.
Josh Hodde led the team with 16 points; Parker Wallace scored eight points; both Lathyn McMorris and Brayden Christian scored seven points while Christian had seven rebounds; McDowell added four points and 10 rebounds; and both Trenton DeTienne and Treyson Culwell had two points.
Falling to Louisiana
Connaway knew his team faced a tough Bulldogs squad last Thursday night that is coached by Van-Far graduate Matt Smith.
In spite of too many mistakes and turnovers, the Indians never gave up before falling 63-56.
“I thought the boys played their hearts out tonight,” Connaway said. “They never gave up, never made excuses and played great team basketball. We knew coming into the game this was a good team and a very tough place to play and we wanted to see where we stacked up with the team that very well may be the favorite to win our district. I think we learned a lot about ourselves tonight.”
Louisiana was sparked by two 3-pointers in the first quarter as Van-Far trailed 19-13.
On offense, the Indians players made some good reads and hit some open jumpers along with making some points in the post.
Van-Far did outscore the Bulldogs 16-8 in the second quarter to take a 29-27 halftime lead.
Louisiana responded in the third quarter by outscoring Van-Far 17-8 to go up 44-38.
The Indians did rally to cut the lead to four with :30 seconds left in the game before falling by seven.
“I am extremely proud of this effort tonight and we told the boys if we continue to play that hard and cut down our turnovers we are going to be a pretty good basketball team,” Connaway said. “We are short handed right now without our leading scorer Nick (Barnes) and we’re missing Sharrod (Connor) and Trey (Miller), but we aren’t going to make any excuses that game was there for the taking and Louisiana just made more plays than we did down the stretch.”
Van-Far made 17-of-27 free throws in the loss but did outrebound the Bulldogs 42-19.
McMorris scored 18 points and six rebounds; Hodde had 13 points with five rebounds; Christian added a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds; Wallace scored even points; McDowell had five points and 11 rebounds; Culwell scored two points; and Wilburn had one point.