Having just been through two games in two days that the Missouri State High School Athletic Association refers to as the postseason but they'd probably more likely describe as a trial by fire, the Van-Far varsity boys basketball team now prepapres to play Elsberry on Wednesday at 7:45 p.m.
Having just survived two incredibly close games last Friday against Louisiana and Last Saturday against host Canton in the district semifinals and finals, you won't find a team any more recently pressure-tested and game-approved than the Indians. To prove the team can produce at this level for more then just two games just look at their first round playoff game on Feb. 21, which was a 68-57 victory over Clopton that featured 28 points by Lathyn McMorris and Josh Hodde scored 12.
"Tonight we weren't very sharp from the opening tip. Clopton was more aggressive and really beat us up on the boards, especially early," said coach Pat Connaway. "They built and 11 point lead early in the first and led by seven going into the second. In the second we were able to establish tempo and find McMorris in the open floor and in our half court offense. He scored 16 in the second and was a huge factor in our 25 point outburst, which allowed us to come all the way back and take a four point lead."
Another big reason Van-Far was able to earn this decison is that they outscored Clopton 19-12 in the final session. As for why they were able to post that advantage, in December McMorris hurt his ankle in a game at Mexico that put him on the sidelines for quite some time. While he was out it became incumbent on every member of this squad to go all pout every minute of every game. Once he came back that total team effort has only enhanced what McMorris can do as scorer, and the rest is history.
"At half time we talked about rebounding and defending. Landon Hall scored 25 points for them and was really giving us fits. We had trouble defending him," Connaway said. "We also talked about being more aggressive and getting to the foul line. We had only shot six free throws in the first half. We were able to keep grinding and managed to finally pull away from them in the fourth quarter, mainly by securing the basketball and knocking down free throws."
The fact Van-Far hit 11-of-12 free throws in the fourth quarter and 20-of-24 for the game certainly didn't hurt it's chances. Elsberry, for its' part, is going to be more than difficult to deal with come game time, but so is every otherb team that made it this far in the tournament. What makes Elsberry different is that it finished the regular season at 12-13 overall and has been on a roll ever since tht nobody has been able to stop.
Duriong the regular season Elsberry defeated Van-Far 59-48 at home on Jan. 8, but the Indians won the rematch 66-46 on Jan. 25. As for common opponents, Elsberry defeated Clopton 50-42 on Dec. 7 and lost at Louisiana 61-49 on Jan. 19. Even though that may bode well for Van-Far on paper, it still doesn't account for the momentum that Elsberry's been riding since the postseason began.
The winner of this game will either face Milan, 26-2 overall, or Harrisburg, 22-6 overall, on March 3rd at 2:45 p.m.