Just because multiple schedules say the Madison Tournament is Jan. 1-6 doesn't mean it is, because, in fact, it isn't.
Instead, the Van-Far girls began this event on Wednesday against Cairo. Paris, Community R-6 and North Callaway are also at this tourney, which means all of those both boys teams will be competing on the same court at the same venue, as well.
Even though that may seem like it that doesn't leave these squads with much of a holiday vacation, for the Lady Indians their final game of 2017 was a 52-48 upset victory at the Gary Filbert Classic at Mexico last Saturday. Highlighting this contest were the 15 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and three steals put up by Jayle Jennings.
Reaghan Case also had 15 points and four boards that game and Katie Elzea charted 13 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a steal for Van-Far, all of which proved to be incredibly important when the Lady Bulldogs went on a 23-8 run in the second quarter.
"We knew going into the Mexico game those were some things we really needed to focus on. Against Mexico we handled every defense they ran and were able to stay under control when they tried speeding the game up," said coach Kelly Borchert. "We got down by 11 but the girls never stopped fighting and we hit some big shots at the end of the game to put us ahead. It was a nice win to end the week on."
Another reason the Lady Indians win at the Lady Bulldogs was so noteworthy is that the night before, last Friday, they played at Monroe City and were defeated 66-40 despite nine points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals by Jordan Garner. Because the squad also got a combined five points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block from Alex Connaway, Alivia Graddy and Panna Connaway, Van-Far was only down 14-12 at the end of the first quarter and 25-21 at halftime.
"This was a tough week for us playing some good teams. We moved the ball well and got really good looks at the basket throughout the whole game," Connnaway said. "Our help defense looked a lot better, as well."
The final indicator as to how the Lady Indians might do at the Madison tournament came Dec. 11 when the team got tripped up at home by North Callaway 51-37. One factor working against Van-Far was that it was trailing 19-29 at halftime and 43-26 at the end of the third, a fact even 16 points, nine rebounds, and two steals by Jennings couldn't counteract. That means, when the going gets tough, Van-Far is going to need contributions from everyone, including Gina Clausen and Morgan McDowell.
"In both the North Callaway and Monroe City games we looked pretty good in the first half, but then got into some foul trouble and that really hurt us," Borchert said. "Against both North Callaway and Monroe City we struggled getting the ball inside and our help defense wasn't great."
The reason the Paris girls are going to cause problems for other teams at the Madison tourney is the same reason it defeated North Callaway 50-39 on Dec. 16 in the Gary Filbert Classic and that's the ability to hold opponents to single digit scoring for multiple quarters. One part of that equation is 6-foot-4 Tori Hamilton, who scored 15 against the Ladybirds, but Allison Moore and her 11 points has played a key role on both ends of the court, as well.
Not to be forgotten, North Callaway has a lineup that that allows for several different players to step up and take charge. One of those options against the Lady Coyotes last weekend at Mexico was Allie Schluetter with 19 points, four rebounds, one assist and a block. Nicole Emmons also played an essential role last Saturday at the Gary Filbert Classic for the Ladybirds against Paris with nine points, three assists and two boards.