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Vandals bounce back from loss

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By Jonathan Stark

The Vandalia boys basketball team survived another close game on Tuesday night,  edging Roxana, 38-37.

Junior Daniel Bell had a team-high 12 points for the Vandals, and hit a three pointer in the final minute to give them the win.

It was a close game all night, as neither team could pull away

Bell got off to a slow start, with his first three points coming from the free-throw line. He broke out in the third quarter, scoring six of Vandalia's nine points in the period.

Marty Johnson was also in double figures with 10 points, and had a team-high eight rebounds.

The win moves Vandalia to 15-10 overall and 11-1 in the South Central Conference, locking up the best overall record in the conference.

Vandalia returns home on Thursday night to face South Central as a part of senior night. The junior varsity will start at 6 p.m., with varsity to follow. The seniors will be honored between games.

Vandalia 50

Carlinville 37

After surviving a close win over Southwestern on Friday, Vandalia was back on the court 24 hours later to face Carlinville, which was a make up from Jan. 8.

Vandalia walked away with a 50-37 win, but the game was still in doubt up until the five-minute mark in the fourth quarter.

"We played at (Carlinville's) level," Vandalia coach Kevin Jackson said. "We weren't there the first three quarters. Luckily for us, we got there (in the fourth)."

Marty Johnson  still had the hot hand for Vandalia, as he rattled off five of the teams’ first seven points. Will Cowger, who has been in a slump since mid-January, seemed to snap out of it in the second quarter against the Cavies. He banked in a couple close shots, but Carlinville kept coming. It took a 14-13 lead with three minutes to go in the second quarter. The Vandals were able to retake the lead and hold a 20-17 lead at the half. Johnson accounted for 11 of the Vandals points.

The intermission did nothing to throw off Carlinville’s momentum. It tied the game 24-24 midway through the third and took a 28-24 lead at one point. A 9-0 run anchored by Cowger put the game back into Vandalia’s control heading into the fourth quarter.

Leading 36-33, Vandalia went on an 8-0 run to put Carlinville away. The Vandals’ defense held the Cavies to nine points in the final eight minutes. Bryan Hosick scored eight points in the fourth quarter, including six straight.

"We had a nice fourth quarter," Jackson said. "We did some things that we would have liked to have done earlier in the night."

Hosick finished with 12 points and five rebounds. Johnson had team highs in points, rebounds and assists with 17, six and six, respectively. Cowger had 12 points and rebounds.

"I thought Will bounced back (from Friday's game) and had a better night," Jackson said. "In the second half he was a lot more aggressive and more of what we're going to need."

Vandalia had team highs in steals and assists, with 14 and 13, respectively.

The victory moved Vandalia to 11-1 in the conference and clinched the conference's east division title.

Vandalia 48

Southwestern 46

Vandalia was able to bounce back from its first conference loss of the season with a 48-46 win over Southwestern on Friday.

Marty Johnson had a season-high 23 points and drained a season-best six three-pointers.

"We gotta find five guys that want to play hard and play with some passion," Jackson said. "We found them tonight. We'll see what happens tomorrow night. Right now, we've got some guys that aren't willing to give that."

Vandalia needed Johnson to have a career game, as the rest of the field struggled. The junior was hot from the start, as he scored Vandalia’s first 11 points. He didn’t take a shot in the second quarter and his absence was missed as the Vandals scored only five points before the half. Southwestern used Vandalia’s lackluster second quarter to build a seven-point halftime lead.

The Vandals missed 11 shots from the paint in the first half and committed 11 turnovers.

"They weren't difficult shots (in the paint)," Jackson said. "We were weak."

Coming out in the second half, Vandalia cut to the basket more and was more aggressive going up.  The aggression worked, as Angel Osorio, Will Cowger and Bryan Hosick were all able to get to the free-throw line in the opening minutes. Johnson’s three-point shots continued to fall, as he buried two of them midway through the third quarter.

Southwestern seemed to lose some of its momentum in the third quarter, and Vandalia was able to cut the lead to two with three minutes to go in the quarter. Neither team scored in the final minutes, but Vandalia still seemed to have taken control, despite trailing by two.

Johnson and Daniel Bell came out firing in the fourth quarter. Bell scored six straight points for Vandalia, and Johnson sank another trey. The three-pointer gave Vandalia a 43-40 lead, its biggest of the game.

In the final three minutes the Vandals began to get into foul trouble. Southwestern went to the line 14 times in the fourth quarter, hitting 10 of its attempts. Free throws gave it a 46-45 edge with 1:10 remaining.

"We did a lot of reaching," Jackson said. "They did a good job of getting to the rim and attacking us, and we did some reaching. We don't normally play that way."

In the final minute, Vandalia went to the line four times, converting three of its four attempts. Hosick tied the game and gave Vandalia a one-point lead with his trip to the line with 41 seconds on the clock. Johnson hit one of two free throws with 21 seconds left making it a two-point game.

With nine ticks left on the clock, Southwestern had more than enough time to tie or win the game. As it brought the ball across court, Vandalia’s defensive pressure forced the ball out, and the two teams fought for the ball as time expired.

Bell finished with season-high nine points. Johnson and Hosick each had eight rebounds. Cowger was in single digits for the six straight game, scoring only one point. He did not play in the fourth quarter.

Vandalia committed only three turnovers in the second half.