The Van-Far Lady Indians basketball team may have entered their Class 2, District 5 tournament semifinals last Wednesday night as the clear underdogs against the 22-5 Silex Lady Owls but they sure didn’t play like it.
Van-Far, who beat the Lady Owls in a previous meeting between the two schools, jumped out to an early lead and stayed close all night long before falling in the final minute.
Trailing 40-38, Van-Far’s players were trying to get a foul call after Silex dribbled precious time off the clock. Senior Jessie Fowler then picked up speed as she ran towards a Silex player and collided with the Lady Owl. Officials called a questionable flagrant foul on Fowler with 17 seconds remaining to send Silex’s Aly Miller to the free throw line. Miller hit her first free throw to put Silex up by three points.
Just seconds later on an inbound pass for Silex, the Lady Owls nearly turned the ball over after Van-Far’s Kasey Gatson went for a steal near midcourt. The Lady Owls’ Natalie Fleming dove for the loose ball, slid quite a distance, and rolled over on the ball to pass it to a teammate while officials did not whistle her for traveling.
Lindsey Barnhart missed her first free throw to give Van-Far one final chance. After calling a timeout, Gatson made a move at the top of the perimeter before the ball deflected off her leg and went out of bounds to end Van-Far’s season.
“We beat them less than a month ago so I know we had the confidence to do it again,” said Van-Far head coach Blake Logan.
“I told the girls before the game that the small things would determine this game and I told them that again at halftime. When two pretty evenly matched teams square off, it’s all about the small things…”
The loss meant it was the final game for active Van-Far seniors Kasey Gatson, Jessie Fowler, Jenise Johnson, MaKenzie Wallace, and Rachel Nelson. Senior Leah Johnson did not play this season due to injuries suffered in a car accident but will continue her career at Culver-Stockton in the fall.
“All (of our seniors) have really good attitudes,” Logan said. “It took a little adjusting for me and for them. They all bring something a little different to the table…I told the girls to keep their heads up. Some girls finish their careers getting thumped. There’s nothing embarrassing about that game…I told them you’ve had a heck of a career…(This was a successful season).”
Against Silex, the Lady Indians had an early 5-0 run behind Fowler’s 3-pointer. Both Gatson and Wallace scored four points and Van-Far led 11-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Silex made a run in the second quarter as Fleming took over the game with 10 points. Silex’s 6-0 run gave the Lady Owls their first lead. Gatson provided Van-Far’s lone offense with six points as the Lady Indians trailed 21-19 at halftime after Fleming scored at the buzzer.
Van-Far made just 4-of-14 shots from the field in the quarter while Silex made 7-of-11.
The Lady Owls started the third quarter with a 6-0 run to push their lead to six points when Gatson single-handedly took over for the Lady Indians. She scored a pair of baskets and then converted a 3-point play to tie the game at 28 with 3:08 left in the quarter.
Fowler’s 3-pointer that scored off the backboard in the fourth quarter cut the lead back to one with 3:50 remaining at 36-35 but Van-Far would never get closer.
While Van-Far took just three free throw shots in the game, Silex made 15-of-27 to help them get the win.
Silex went on to lose to Clopton in the finals, 45-33.
Gatson led Van-Far in her final game with 24 points, 11 rebounds, four steals, and two assists.
“Kasey is the leader and they respect her,” Logan said.
Wallace finished with six points, four assists, one rebound, and one steal while Fowler added six points, two rebounds, and two assists.
Jenise Johnson had two points, eight rebounds, one block, and one steal; Rachel Nelson had three rebounds and one block; and Brooke Johnson tallied three rebounds and one steal.
Fleming led Silex with 16 points.
Van-Far finished with a 10-16 overall record.