The People's Tribune

Van-Far Indians Punch ticket To State With OT Win Over Milan In Quarterfinal Tilt

Down 15 in the second half, it wasn’t a miracle that propelled the Van-Far Indians to the MSHSAA Show-Me Showdown, it was preparation, skill and a belief in team that pushed the Indians to a 53-49 overtime win over Milan in the Class 2 Quarterfinal.

The Indians were ahead late in the first quarter as Trey Miller sunk the first five points for Van-Far.

Brayden Christian also hit a three in the quarter but Lathyn McMorris and Miller each picked up two fouls in the quarter and a late bucket put the Wildcats ahead 12-11 after the first quarter.

Milan Sophomore Ryan Dabney drained six free throws in a row in the second quarter as the Wildcats stretched the lead to six by halftime.

Dabney was the only player to reach double figures with thirteen points by halftime.

McMorris hit a three in the third quarter for the Indians, but Van-Far fell further behind, outscored 14-10 in the quarter, heading to the fourth down 40-30.

With a fifteen point lead in the fourth, the Wildcats went into protect mode to try and slow the pace.

Milan wasn’t expecting the intensity of the Van-Far defense to rise with McMorris and Miller in foul trouble, but with creative personnel moves and a deep, talented bench, the Indians picked off passes and forced bad decisions by the young Wildcats.

The Indians didn’t allow Milan a point in the final two and a half minutes and outscored the Wildcats 16-7 in the final quarter to tie the game and force an extra session.

Milan scored the first points of the overtime period, but wouldn’t score again as Josh Hodde hit a bucket and Trey Miller and Caden Wilburn drained free throws to put the Indians ahead.

A final steal from Wilburn sealed the victory and left the Milan faithful stunned.

Scoring for the Indians: Josh Hodde, 14; Trey Miller, 11; Brayden Christian, 8; Lathyn McMorris, 8; Caden Wilburn, 5; Colten Jensen, 4; Verlyn Johnson, 2 points.

Coach Pat Connaway noted it wasn’t a prett win.

“We struggled from the field and we got into foul trouble early and often. In the first half Trey and Lathyn sat a ton of minutes with either 2 or 3 fouls. We had trouble playing through the contact and missed a lot of ‘bunnies’ inside. We also really struggled from the 3 point line,” he noted. “Defensively we were pretty good. We only allowed 26 points in the first half, but our offensive woes really hurt us. We also didn’t do a good job of establishing tempo. Their zone really slowed us down and I think the kids were pressing a little bit knowing what was on the line.”

He said that in the locker room they weren’t down since they were only behind by six points.

“We told the boys if we could hold them to 50 points we thought we had a great shot of winning the game,” he said. “In the 3rd we got off to a slow start and they built a 15 point lead with a little over 3 minutes to go. We were able to keep grinding and managed to cut the lead to 10 heading into the 4th. We told the boys it wasn’t panic mode yet. We wanted to keep getting stops defensively and wanted to start attacking the rim. With about 3:30 to go we started our run. We got a couple of quick shots and a couple of steals and cut into their lead.”

Milan struggled with Van-Far’s traps and the team rotated very well and started to capitalize on the turnovers.

“We got a steal and a layup to tie the game at 47 and then Caden had a huge defensive stop and we took possession with the intent to take the last shot of the game. Our execution wasn’t perfect so we called our final timeout with 3.5 seconds to go. We drew up a quick set to try and get Lathyn on a back door and if it wasn’t there Trey was supposed to “go to work” and win the game. Unfortunately we didn’t get what we wanted so we headed to overtime.”

Despite Milan getting the two point lead first in OT, momentum was in Van-Far’s hands.

“I can’t say enough about all of our kids and their will to win. There is no quit in these boys and they kept grinding it out and found a way to get back into the game and eventually pull it out. It was a total team win! Our bench was tremendous. Treyson, Colten, Verlyn, and Colin all played big minutes. They kept us in the game and allowed us to sub in and out to protect Lathyn and Trey who both had 4 fouls most of the 2nd half and OT. Defensively we gave up 23 points in 20 minutes of basketball. That effort allowed us to come back,” Connaway said.

“Our fans and crowd were magnificent. There was a sea of black and gold in the stands and they willed these boys to a victory and now we’re on to the Final Four for the first time since 2004,” he added.

“Now we have to face Mid-Buchanan who is ranked #2 in the state and who just defeated the #1 ranked team in Sacred Heart. It will be a very tough match-up for us. They are very athletic and crash the boards hard. I know one thing, we are going to show up, play hard and give it all we have. It’s a great day to be and Indian and we’ll see everyone this Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at JQH Arena in Springfield.”

The Indians reached the quarters with a 61-39 win over Elsberry on Wednesday in the Sectionals at Hannibal.

Caden Wilburn scored twenty-two and Lathyn McMorris netted eighteen for the Indians as Van-Far edged Elsberry 14-13 in the first quarter, then blew out the other Indians with a 19-6 second quarter.

Van-Far edged Elsberry 13-11 in the third and coasted to victory with a 15-6 final quarter for the 22 point win.

In addition to the combined forty points from Wilburn and McMorris the Indians got eleven points from Josh Hodde, six from Trey Miller and four from Brayden Christians.

The Indians (27-3) move on to Springfield to face the Mid-Buchanan Dragons (26-4) in the Class 2 Semifinal.

The game will be played at 8:30 p.m. this Thursday at the new home of the Show-Me Showdown, JQH Arena in Springfield, MO.

The other semifinal features Purdy and Hayti at 6:50 p.m.

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