Van-Far boys force way to 60-46 win vs South Shelby

By Jeremy Jacob, Sports Editor
Posted 2/10/24

The Van-Far boys felt they had to make up for Saturday on Thursday.

Van-Far vs South Shelby Photo Gallery

The Indians won two games this week with scoring outputs of 82 and 90 but matched …

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Van-Far boys force way to 60-46 win vs South Shelby


The Van-Far boys felt they had to make up for Saturday on Thursday.

Van-Far vs South Shelby Photo Gallery

The Indians won two games this week with scoring outputs of 82 and 90 but matched up with another good football program in Class 3 South Shelby, winning the weather-makeup game 60-46 at home. With a few kids under the weather, Van-Far grew its lead to as much as 23 points following a 26-23 halftime advantage and beat South Shelby (11-11) in rebounding 33-18 and with 10 3-pointers.

In Saturday’s Superfan Shootout in Quincy, Illinois, Van-Far (18-5) lost 59-46 to Camp Point Central — an Illinois school that is state-ranked this season after winning a football state title last year. South Shelby’s roster was also full of football players that combined for a 10-1 season a year ago so head coach Pat Connaway said the focus was clear to avoid another Saturday.

“We stressed physicality and had to match it,” Connaway said. “Our losses this year are when teams have been more physical than us. We knew South would be physical with a lot of good football kids. Even though we struggled and were a little sluggish early, we got a lot of offensive rebounds.”

Pacey Reading led the floor with 22 points and a career-high six 3-pointers, Carson Huff finished with a near double-double of 10 points and eight rebounds, and Nikos Connaway had a near triple-double of seven points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Gaven Gaston added six points and eight rebounds off the bench.

“It’s good to win a physical game because Coach has been saying that’s our weakness,” Reading said. “We battled tonight, and it is good to get those types of wins for sure.”

Pat Connaway said he couldn’t help but feel optimistic after the first half even though it was nowhere near the team’s best this season. That was partly because of the physicality shown from his roster of football players and the performances from some of his kids.

Reading was automatic for most of the night from the perimeter, hitting a career-high six 3-pointers. Three of his deep shots fell in the second quarter to give the Indians the slight halftime advantage, with him recalling missing only a couple from behind the arc.

“They came out in a zone, and it was there,” Reading said. “Six threes is pretty cool. I wasn’t really thinking I would do that this game, but I did.”

Connaway said those 3-pointers helped keep Van-Far offensively afloat before they had a bigger second half. He said Gage Gibson also had a good night with three 3-pointers, and Carson Huff knocked one down.

“It doesn’t matter with Pacey as he can miss 100, and he’s still going to keep shooting,” Connaway said with a grin. “He’s open no matter what. When we get downhill and inside out, Nikos penetrated and Gage makes the extra pass. That’s good offense.”

Huff was coming off his own big scoring night on Thursday at his former school Wellsville-Middletown, finishing with a season-high 18 points in the 90-23 victory — which is the first time this season the Indians have reached 90 points. He admitted that coach Connaway told him to focus on rebounding and it worked Thursday and has been helping recently for him.

“I’m looking for a shot a little bit more — have an open shot, take it,” Huff said.

The Wellsville game saw five Indians score in double figures, including Huff, Reading and Connaway along with Gibson and Evan Utterback. In his first season with Van-Far, Huff is averaging about seven points per game and is one of five Indians at or above that threshold.

“It’s fun,” Huff said when asked about the balanced offense. “With every pass, you never know if a three is going to go up and go in. It’s really fun to just be able to watch all the threes go in.”

Nikos Connaway had 15 points in that Wellsville game but also reached double figures in three other categories — including 11 assists, 11 steals and 10 rebounds — to record a quadruple-double following a career of not having a triple-double. Scoring was nonexistent for Connaway against South Shelby until the fourth quarter, when he put in seven points.

His father coach Connaway said, even though his son has shown repeatedly he can take over a game with his scoring, Van-Far’s offense thrives more when others are scoring as well. Case in point, Connaway’s South Shelby assists gave him about 30 assists in three victories.

“He’s been chasing a triple-double forever,” Connaway said. “When he’s finding open guys, that’s what makes us good and that’s what’s going to give us an opportunity to make a run (in the postseason).”

Connaway admitted his players weren’t running as much against South Shelby, and that was by design because of the sickness going around the school that depleted the Lady Indians’ roster enough where they had to cancel their South Shelby game. Regardless, the offense posted good numbers to earn the Indians their most wins in four years and encouraged him for the future.

“When we finally started getting some penetration, we kicked the ball out and hit open shots,” Connaway said. “When we can put 60 up and Nikos scores seven, that’s incredible. If we can keep shooting the ball like that, that’s very promising.”