Coming off a solid third place finish in the Madison Tournament, the Van-Far Indians entered last week’s game with a lot of confidence heading into a match-up with three quality basketball programs in Elsberry, South Shelby, and rival Bowling Green.
Unfortunately, the boys basketball team was unable pick up a win after playing three close contests.
“It was a disappointing week, but I think we learned a lot about ourselves and we know what it takes to not only compete with the top ranked teams, but we know what it takes to beat them!,” said Van-Far head coach Pat Connaway.
The highlight of their week came on Courtwarming Night when Van-Far took on rival Bowling Green, who entered the game as the No. 5 state-ranked team in Class 3.
Trailing by seven in the fourth quarter, the Indians rallied to take a one point lead when Josh Hodde hit a 3-pointer with 1:25 left in the game. After getting a big defensive stop, Lathyn McMorris had a rebound and Van-Far was in transition when coaches wanted Hodde to pull the ball out but he couldn’t hear them due to the loud fans in the gym.
After missing a quality shot, Bowling Green then scored with :55 seconds left to go up one. The Bobcats added a pair of free throws. Nick Barnes missed a late 3-pointer that could have tied the game before the Indians ran out of time in a 42-40 loss.
“Tonight was a great atmosphere and a great game!,” Connaway said. “The place was packed and the place was jumping…We had them on the ropes, but just couldn’t finish. I do think our young group learned a lot tonight. We had two of the best practices we’ve had all year long and it carried over to the game. If we can continue to defend like that and keep communicating with each other, we are going to be just fine…”
Van-Far enjoyed having Wyatt McDowell back in the lineup after he missed the previous two games. On just the third trip of the game, he drew a big charge during a first quarter that Bowling Green won 16-12.
“The things this kid does for us doesn’t always show up in the stat lines, but the way he defends and sacrifices his body sets an example for the rest of our team,” Connaway said of McDowell.
Defensively, Van-Far locked down Bowling Green and held them to nine points in the second quarter as the Indians trailed 25-17 at halftime.
Van-Far then won the third quarter 7-6 before falling late in the game.
The Indians’ defense only gave up 17 points in the second half, with three of the points coming in the final minute.
During the game, the offense made just 15-of-46 shots and won the turnover battle, 17-5. Van-Far did lose the rebounding battle, 36-18.
McMorris finished the game with 12 points and seven rebounds while Hodde had 10 points. Barnes scored seven points, Brayden Christian had six points, and McDowell added six rebounds.
Falling to South Shelby
Before falling at home to the Bobcats, the Indians gave up a halftime lead and lost 47-43.
The Indians were down by two with seven seconds left in the game when they turned the ball over on the in-bounds play. South Shelby then hit free throws to seal the win.
“I think our legs were just dead,” Connaway said. “We didn’t have a lot of energy tonight. They were strong kids and scored 34 of their 40 points from the field in the paint.”
Van-Far started the game up 23-18 at halftime before being outscored 29-20 in the second half. South Shelby won the turnover battle, 23-18, and the battle on the boards, 34-14.
McMorris scored 17 points; Hodde had nine points; Barnes scored seven points and nine rebounds; and Christian tallied five points and seven rebounds.
Road loss to Elsberry
Van-Far opened the week on the road and were outscored in the first and third quarters in a 64-54 loss to Elsberry.
With players standing at 6’4” and 6’5” in the post, Van-Far struggled defending the paint. Meanwhile, the offense made just 4-of-18 shots from 3-point range.
Elsberry jumped out to a 19-8 first quarter lead before Van-Far responded by winning the second quarter, 20-13.
“We didn’t respond well early, but we bounced back in the second quarter and made some good adjustments and were able to cut a double-digit deficit to four at half,” Connaway said.
Elsberry responded by winning the second half, 32-26, to win the game.
Christian scored 16 points and six rebounds while Barnes added 10 points and seven rebounds. Hodde had 14 points, McMorris scored seven points, Caden Wilburn had five points, and Hodde had five rebounds.