The People's Tribune

Van-Far Indians Set Stage For Repeat As State Champions

The Van-Far Indians appear to be on cruise control as they dominated Milan in the State Sectional and Northeast Cairo in the State Quarterfinal to set the stage for a repeat in the Show-Me Showdown as Class 2 State Champions.
While the other teams may have appeared stronger on paper, the Indians made easy work of both opponents. Each game the team was led by senior Trey Miller, who has turned in two unforgettable performances.
It was raining three-pointers in the opening quarter of the Class 2 State Quarterfinal game against Northeast Cairo on Saturday at Moberly Area Community College.
The Indians outscored Cairo 20-15 in the opening frame. Miler got things going with a pair of free throws and then sank four three-pointers for 14 points. Caden Wilburn added two more treys in the first period.
Van-Far extended the lead by outscoring Cairo 13-11 in the second quarter. Miller hit two more threes. Verdel Johnson also had a three and buckets were netted by Verlyn Johnson and Sam Middleton.
The Indians led 33-26 by halftime.
It was more three-pointers in the third quarter as the Indians began to stretch their legs and fly. Caden Wilbun hit a three-pointer that put the Van-Far lead into double-figures.
The Indians outscored Cairo 18-10 in the third as Caden Wilburn sank another pair of treys while Miller netted five more points along with Colin Wilburn who hit a three at the end of the frame to punctuate the Indians’ dominance.
Van-Far was 50 percent from the charity stripe in the final stanza, going 9-18. They only had one field goal in the fourth from Dillion Minor. The defense held Cairo to just two baskets and a pair of free throws to claim victory and punch their ticket for a return to the Show-Me Showdown to defend their Class 2 title.
Miller had a total of seven three-pointers in the quarterfinal win, along with a two-point field goal and was perfect (4-4) from the free throw line. Along with his defensive performance, Miller earned the Community State Bank TribCast Player of the Game.
Other scoring: Caden Wilburn, 13; Verdell Johnson, 7; Colin Wilburn, 5; Verlyn Johnson, 4; Minor, 3; Middleton, 2; Aidan Lowrance, 1.

Coach Pat Connaway noted he was pleased with the team’s business-like attidude going into Saturday’s game.
“We definitely acted like we had been there before and it really showed. It also helps when Trey tells everyone, ‘It’s fine, guys – no pressure, we got this,’ and he comes out and puts up 20 points in the first half.”
He added that Van-Far was able to take Cairo out of their game plan and cause frustration.
“The kids did an excellent job of buying into what needed to be done and then they went out and executed. It was a total team effort and I am so proud of them.”
Connaway pointed out that history has been made again at Van-Far with the first back-to-back Final Four qualifications.
“Now we have to prep this week for a very good Oran team on Friday in hopes of being able to play for our second straight State Title. Hopefully our experience with being there last year will help us and our senior leadership will be a key factor,” Connaway stated. “No matter what happens, I am so proud of them and their accomplishments. I also want to thank the Van-Far Nation that has supported us along the way.”
Connaway said it aall hasn’t really sank in yet.
“Brett and I have been so busy preparing for the next game I haven’t had time to reflect on what we have accomplished. It has been business as usual,” he commented. “We have been playing some of our best basketball lately and it has mainly been attributed to our defense and committing to it for an entire game. Going into the Milan game not many people thought we could win. They were hoping, but didn’t think we could really do it. Coach and I knew we could and so did the boys and they went out and proved it and that confidence carried over to Saturday,” he added. “We definitely are a different team from last year, but there are a lot of similarities.
One – we don’t care who scores – we share the ball and play as a total unit. Two – both teams were/are ‘under-rated’ and no one thought we could get here. Three – (we have) great team unity – truly friends on and off the floor.”
Van-Far will be hold a pep assembly that is open to the public at 8 a.m. on Thursday, March 7. The boys will then board the chartered bus for Springfield. The team will go to the elementary and through town before heading to Springfield.
The Indians will face Oran (29-1) in the semifinal on Friday, March 8 at 11 a.m. The other semifinal game is between Greenwood (27-3) and Plattsburg (22-8). The third place game is at 11 a.m. on Saturday and the championship will take place at 2:40 p.m. on Saturday.

The Indians made easy work of a perfect Milan team in the Class 2 State Sectional last Wednesday at Hannibal High School. The last time Milan lost it was in the quarterfinal last year. Milan was enjoying a perfect season this year until the Indians happened again.
Milan had an edge to start the game but a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Caden Wilburn at the end of the first brought the Indians to within one point and changed the momentum of the game.
Trey Miller went off for 10 points in the second quarter as the Indians outscored Milan 20-14 in the second to lead 35-30 at halftime.
Milan put together a run in the third and outscored Van-Far 16-14 in the third but late in the quarter the shots were dropping and Miller sank a pair of threes and a bucket.
The Indians were 7-10 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. The team also got four points each from Verlynn Johnson and Miller.
Miller led the way with 25 points and earned the Community State Bank TribCast Player of the Game.
Other scoring: Caden Wilburn, 12; Verdell Johnson, 11; Colin Wilburn, 8; Verlyn Johnson, 8.
Connaway noted the boys came out confident and poised.
“It was a game that not very many people thought we could win. Milan was ranked second in the State and was undefeated and we came into the game with seven losses. Coach and I knew we were bigger and stronger and definitely more physical than them and we wanted to use that to our advantage,” Connaway pointed out. “We also felt that our schedule better prepared us for this game than theirs did. When you play the caliber of teams we do night in and night out you’re prepared for the post season. Most importantly the 14 boys dressing out knew we could do it.”
Connaway said the Indians have shown the area that Van-Far is a quality team and a tough out.
“This year has the same feeling as last year. We were unranked all year long and no one thought we could do it and we proved people wrong and this team is doing the same thing. I can’t say enough about the kids, their desire to win, and their ability to buy into what Coach Reading and I want.”

TribCast will feature the Final Four games this weekend for Clopton and Van-Far live online at MSHSAA does not allow streaming video of the Final Four so the broadcasts will feature audio only. Watch the Trib’s website and Facebook page following the games for video highlight packages produced by TribCast Director Mark Fronick.

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