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It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Vandalia boys basketball team. In the Vandals' last six games, they’ve gone 1-5, with all five losses coming by six or less points. Despite the run of close losses, Vandalia was still sitting pretty in the South Central Conference at 4-0.
Needless to say, Friday’s game against Greenville would be a big win, not just for the rivalry and conference standings, but because Vandalia need a win, badly.
Vandalia had already picked up a win over the Comets earlier in the season, a 42-28 victory at home. But Greenville isn’t the same team it was a month ago, and neither is Vandalia. Both teams have improved, gained and lost players, and had a lot more on-court experience that can not be measured.
"They're a lot better than they were the first time," Vandalia coach Kevin Jackson said. "And they should be as the season progresses. I think we're better than we were the first time we played."
Freshman Tim Ritchey, who was the Vandals' starting point guard for the first half of the season, was in street clothes on Tuesday night following an injury he sustained in practice earlier in the week. However, the Vandals would not be without talent at the point. Dylan Durr, who missed the first half of the season, was back, and his presence was felt.
"(Durr) has just been in those situations and he knows how to handle them," Jackson said. "Tim's done a great job for us, but there's nothing like having a senior out there."
Vandalia was able to get off to a strong start as Angel Osorio, Marty Johnson and Durr were all on the board early. Despite the strong start, a four-minute drought allowed Greenville to tie the game and eventually take a 9-8 lead by the end of the first quarter.
The Vandals and Comets traded the lead four times in the second quarter, but it was Vandalia that held a 17-16 lead at halftime.
Vandalia came out of the locker room flat and Greenville was able to score six straight points, taking a five-point lead. Johnson hit a two with just under five minutes to go in the third to end the run.
The Vandals, who are usually good for a couple of threes a game, mostly by Johnson, were a mere 1-for-8 from the field. The lone three that fell was by Johnson with 3:22 to go in the third quarter, and the trifecta would prove to be the turning point in the game.
When the shot fell, it tied the game 21-21, but that would be as close as the Comets would get the rest of the way.
Vandalia went on a 12-4 run over the next eight minutes. The run gave them some separation and took Greenville out of the game. Will Cowger scored six points during the run.
The Comets scored only nine points the rest of the game, eight of which were from the free-throw line.
The Vandals would go on to win 42-31.
Even though the Vandals scored in the single digits in three of the four quarters, they did not have a really bad quarter that has been characteristic of Vandalia’s games. Vandalia played a very balanced game throughout, and when Greenville went cold in the final 10 minutes. The Vandals were able to close the door, scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter.
Cowger finished with 12 points. He was 6-for-6 from the line and had a team-high eight rebounds.. Johnson had 11 points, and Durr had 10 points and six steals. Osorio’s basket to open the game would be his only one. Cody Norris had seven points coming off the bench.
Vandalia had 13 turnovers and shot 43 percent for the floor. The Vandals are now 8-8 (5-0 SCC)
"The big thing is, they (Greenville) has two conference losses now and we have none," Jackson said. "We need to continue on that path."
The junior varsity lost to Greenville earlier in the evening, 57-46. Nathan Berning and Daniel Bell each had 16 points. The JV squad is 5-2 (3-2).
The Vandals will be back in action on Saturday, as they host Shelbyville. Junior varsity plays at 6 p.m., with varsity to follow.