Going into the final week of the regular season, Van-Far head boys basketball coach Pat Connaway wanted to see his team continue its strong play just before districts.
The players answered the call as they extended their winning streak to four in a row with the program’s first win at Wright City in more than 10 years.
They finished the week by nearly upsetting undefeated EMO Conference foe Clopton in a narrow three point loss.
Van-Far did win six of their final eight games of the regular season.
“I think we know after playing an excellent team like Clopton and not playing close to our best that we are ready for Districts and are ready to make a run,” Connaway said.
“It wasn’t the way we wanted Trenton (DeTienne), Wyatt (McDowell), and Nick (Barnes) to close out their final home game, but the kids showed a lot of heart and grit. We still have work to do, but I do want to say that Coach (Brett) Reading and I are very proud of our three seniors and the excellent young men that they are both on and off the court.”
In the win over Wright City, the defense picked up several steals that translated into baskets during a 19-4 first quarter for the Indians.
Van-Far’s offense stumbled in the second quarter but Lathyn McMorris’ 3-pointer at the buzzer sent the team into the locker room up 18.
At halftime, the coaches reminded the players that the team was down 18 to Wright City two years ago at halftime only to lose a come-from-behind heartbreaker in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats started a rally in the third quarter as Josh Hodde picked up his fourth foul early in the frame.
The Indians continued to struggle offensively which helped Wright City cut the lead to three with four minutes left.
Fortunately, the Indians made 16-of-19 free throws and sealed the game on the line.
“The bright side of this victory is we are growing and maturing,” Connaway said.
“In years’ past we would have lost the lead and probably the game when the ‘big run’ came at us. I was very proud of our poise and composure down the stretch. We are really growing as a team and are learning how to win without shooting the ball well. We got several good open looks and just didn’t hit them.”
The win pushed their record to 12-11 overall and 6-3 in the EMO Conference.
In the win, the Indians made just 6-of-20 3-point shots and shot 34% from the field.
Barnes led the team with 16 points and five rebounds; Hodde had 15 points and four rebounds; McMorris added eight points; McDowell tallied seven points and four rebounds; Brayden Christian had six points and five rebounds; and Caden Wilburn added two points.
Van-Far won the turnover battle, 24-12.
Heartbreaking loss to
Clopton in final home game for seniors
In a packed gym on Senior Night, the Indians used the crowd’s energy to battle through a tough offensive night to nearly knock off a Clopton, a team that had beaten Louisiana three times.
Clopton led 13-8 at the end of the first quarter and held the same five point lead heading into halftime.
After cutting the lead to four heading into the fourth quarter, shots started to finally fall late in the game.
McMorris, Barnes, and Hodde each hit big 3-pointers while Hodde hit a base-line jumper to cut the lead to one with 12 seconds left.
Barnes grabbed a late rebound and launched a contested 3-point shot at the buzzer that could have tied the game but it went off the rim for a 59-56 loss.
“It was a hard fought battle where we just came up a little short,” Connaway said.
The Indians made just 6-of-26 3-point shots. They also took just 12 free throw shots to Clopton’s 28.
Clopton had 15 second-chance points to Van-Far’s three while outrebounding the Indians, 41-27.
Hodde finished with 24 points and Barnes tallied 14 points and seven rebounds; McMorris had nine points; Christian had five points and six rebounds; and McDowell finished with four points and six rebounds.
“We also want to thank everyone who has supported us all year and everyone that showed up tonight to make the atmosphere electric,” Connaway said.
“It was so loud in the gym that the refs couldn’t hear coach and I twice wanting time outs! The fans made it an awesome senior night and something these kids will remember forever.”