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FARINA – Vandalia allowed the first basket of Tuesday’s game to South Central, but the Vandals would then outscore the Cougars 17-0 over the next 7:19 in what proved to be the difference-maker in a 45-40 win.
“I really liked our start,” said Vandals coach Kevin Jackson. “I thought our kids came out ready to play, and that was a big key to the game.”
In the second period, however, the Cougars (8-16) started off on a 6-0 run over the first 4:15 to cut Vandalia’s lead to three.
The Vandals (13-10) would then use a 6-0 run of their own, with three points from junior Dathan Berning and a 3-pointer from senior Marty Johnson, over the next 1:40 to reclaim their nine-point edge.
South Central senior Andrew Snow would add a basket with 1:08 left in the half, but that would be the final scoring before halftime to leave the Vandals ahead, 23-16.
Fischer Tharp, the Cougars’ star sophomore who was held scoreless in the first half, scored eight points in the third quarter.
“We just tried to play good man-to-man defense,” Jackson said. “He was more aggressive in the second half, and he tried to do what his team needed him to do.”
All of those points were part of a 10-6 run that allowed to Cougars to move within three, once again.
Vandalia junior Nate Henna opened the final period with a layup, and after a steal by senior Daniel Bell and a crisp dart pass from Johnson, Henna added another layup a minute later to give the Vandals a seven-point cushion.
On Vandalia’s next offensive possession, junior Bryan Hosick assisted Johnson on a 3-pointer, giving the Vandals a 38-28 lead.
The Cougars did not give in, however, continuing to battle and cutting their deficit to just three with 58.8 seconds left in the game after senior Nathan Hill made three free throws because he was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer.
The Vandals would make 5-of-8 free throws in the final minute, and Berning added two steals to help Vandalia secure the six-point win.
“We battled, and we made some plays when we needed to,” Jackson said. “They are much improved. They have gotten better and better and better, and thank goodness we came out and had a good start.”
South Central started the season 1-10, including a 60-33 loss to the Vandals during the Vandalia Holiday Tournament.
Since the tournament, the Cougars have gone 6-6 with several close losses intermixed.
“Over the last month, we’ve been able to handle pressure a little better,” said Cougars coach Rick Simmons. “We’re not really a young team, but we’re an inexperienced team, and we’re starting to mature.”
Tuesday, Feb. 8
at South Central
South Central 42
Vandals – Berning, 17; Johnson, 12; Hosick, 7; Bell, 6; Henna, 6.
Cougars – Colby Bushue, 12; Hill, 10; Tharp, 10; Taylor Cain, 4; Andrew Snow, 4; Ross Stock, 2.
Vandals – Henna, 7; Hosick, 4; Bell, 3; Leyton Godoyo, 3; Quenten Austin, 2; Berning, 1.
Cougars – Snow, 4; Hill, 3; Tharp, 3; Cain, 2; Derek Harmeier, 1.
Vandals – 13-10 (7-3 SCC)
Cougars – 8-16 (3-4 MTC)
Vandals – at Southwestern on Friday at 6 p.m.
Cougars – at Cisne on Friday at 6:15 p.m.