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Van-Far takes 3rd in triple overtime

Posted on Thursday, January 25, 2024 at 9:05 pm

By Brandie Gay

The Van-Far Indians won the Tony Lenzini Boys Basketball Tournament last year but fell short this year. On Tuesday, Jan. 16, the Indians took on Clark County.

Coach Pat Connaway said the Indians got off to a good start and were good defensively.

“We got several consecutive stops,” Connaway added, “which allowed us to get out and run the floor.”

Connaway stated that Nikos had all 20 of his points in the first half and set the tone for the offensive end. Pacey had 17 points, and all of his FGs but one, came from inside the arc, which is huge for the team, Connaway added. “He’s becoming more than just a 3-point shooter. We were able to sit the starters the entire fourth period, as we took a 31-point lead into the fourth quarter.

Van-Far took the first game in the Tony Lenzini tournament with a score of 64 – 43.

Weather came into play, and the game was postponed until Friday, Jan. 19.

With heavy hearts from a loss of a close family member and fan, the Indians played Canton on Friday.

Connaway said, “We came out flat and were a little intimidated by their size. We let the 6-foot, 7-inch, kid bother us early, and we dug ourselves an early hole. We were down 16 – 6 at the end of the first period, and were down 10 at half.

“We came out and started to claw our way back into the game,” Connaway added, “And we outscored them by eight in the third period and cut the deficit to two points. In the fourth period, we continued to trail. We never could get the lead. We were able to tie the game once, but too many poor decisions and unforced turnovers ultimately cost us the game.”

“The one thing about this group, is they will never give up and quit,” Connaway said. “We were down 7 points with a minute to go, and cut the lead to two points with 6 seconds left.”

Connaway said that the team had to foul them, and they made one of two free throws. The Indians had a chance to tie the game down 3 points, with 3.9 seconds left.

“We were able to get Pacey a look, and they fouled him at the horn and he made the first free thow,” Connaway said, “but he missed the second, and the final ended up 53 – 51 Canton.

“We didn’t deserve to win tonight,” he added. “We kept battling, but we weren’t good. Our decision making was poor, our communication on defense was poor. From the coaches down to the players we all need to get better. Now it’s time to shift our attention to Monroe City and a third place game on Saturday.”

Saturday, Jan. 20, the Van-Far Indians played for third place against Monroe City.

Connaway said, it was a game of two halves for the Indians.

“We were flat, lazy, not mentally in the game and got physically bullied,” Connaway said. “In the locker room we weren’t engaged and didn’t have focus, so the other coaches and I told the team to go figure it out—and figure it out they did.”

When the second half started, Connaway said, “The communication was better, the toughness was better, the execution was better. We clawed our way back into the game and took the lead going into the fourth period.

Connaway noted that it was a back and forth game.

“We made a key mistake and turnover that allowed them to tie the game up with 15 seconds to go,” he said. “Nikos launched a 3-pointer off the iron and we went into overtime.”

During the first overtime, the team came up with a few big buckets to answer scores from Monroe.

Connaway said, “We got a key stop to force double overtime. In the second overtime, not much scoring took place and, again Nikos missed a 3-pointer at the horn to win it, and we went to triple overtime. During the overtime, our defense continued to be big, and we continued to get stops.

“Nikos got another steal,” Connaway said, “and got fouled, but only made one of two free throws to give us a 67 – 66 lead. We committed a foul and they missed both, and Carter got a huge rebound and made one of two free throws to put us up 68 – 66.  Gage stole the inbound pass and time expired. It was a hard-fought, fun game to be a part of.”

Connaway added, “I can’t say enough about the kids. Carson got hurt and didn’t play the entire second half, so Gavin Gaston and Kasen Christian both had to log minutes and they played well!”

Carter, he added, was huge during the game.

“He made seven of his eight free throws, and had several key rebounds—and he played physical in the second half,” Connaway said. “Nikos, I don’t think was going to let us lose. Every time we needed a bucket to answer them to tie the game or get the lead, he somehow did it.

“He scored 29 of his game high 31 in the second half and in overtime. We saw signs of leadership tonight and we hope we can build on this win heading into the Bowling Green tournament next week.

“It was a great way to cap off a very trying week. These groups of kids are very close and they were tested mentally this week,” he said, adding that, “they played their hearts out for their teammates and their assistant coach. Our continued prayers go out to the Gilley, Gibson and Culwell families.”