It's not easy to win either side of the Madison varsity basketball tournament.
First, you've got to win a game before New Years Eve. Then you've got to come back some time later and win two more games and through it all just hope nobody gets sick or hurt or goes on vacation.
For the Van-Far boys, not only did it have to do all of that knowing top scorer Lathyn McMorris would probably be out with an ankle injury for another month, but in the championship game on Saturday against Mark Twain, the team had to go to overtime before finally laying claim to the title 74-70.
"Mark Twain has one of the best post players in the area, Grant Peters. He's a big, strong kid and a match-up night mare for just about any team," said coach Pat Connaway. "We knew we would have to have a great team effort if we wanted to win our first championship in over 10 years. Offensively we came out of the gates hot and jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, but in typical Mark Twain fashion they came battling back behind 10 first quarter points by Peters."
Once Mark Twain cut the Indians lead to 14-12 in the opening session, it then launched a 16-11 effort in the second to head into the break leading 28-25. Van-Far's response was to outscore the Tigers 31-28 after halftime, including 17-13 in the third, to send this contest to an extra session deadlocked at 56-56 prior to posting an 18-14 advantage to edge out this hard-fought victory.
"We wanted to attack Peters and try to get him in foul trouble and we had good success getting his second foul on him early in the second, but when he went to the bench they went on a little run and took a three point lead into the locker room," Connaway said. "Coach Brett Breading and I thought mentally we weren't very sharp and that Mark Twain was beating us to the loose balls and we were going to have to refocus. Coming out in the third we got some steals and got out in transition."
Even though it may have taken longer than they might have liked, scoring 18 with 11 rebounds and four assists for the Indians was Brayden Christian, Josh Hodde added 16 points, nine assists and 11 boards and Trey Miller had 10 points and six rebounds. Treyson Cullwell also pulled down eight rebounds and five points, Colten Jensen put up nine points and Caden Wilburn made an eight point contribution.
"We had a one point lead heading into the fourth so we were feeling pretty good until Miller reaggravated his knee and sat out the rest of the game," said Connaway. "We were able to build a lead late in the fourth, but we couldn't make the free throws to seal the victory and Mark Twain tied the game with 17 seconds left. We had a shot to win the game, but a long range three from Caden was off the mark. In OT we went aggressive and Hodde was able to win the tip and we didn't look back."
For the game Van-Far went just 23-for-75 from the floor, including 5-for-20 from behind the three-point line. The squad also connected on 23-of-42 free throws, which is at least better than shooting 36 percent like it did Wednesday inn the semifinals oif this event against CR-6.
" If we would have been able to hit our FTs we could have won by double digits, but we just couldn't them. Those misses kept them in the game, but fortunately for us we made just enough to get out of there with a win," Connaway said. "I was so proud the boys and their effort. It was a total team win and the kids ought to be proud of themselves. I have to give credit to all of them for sharing the ball and we had great balance in the last two games, but tonight's balance in scoring was incredible."
The Indians next played Monday at Elsberry.