Vandals get back on track at Carlinville

 Carlinville threw a zone defense at the Vandalia boys basketball team Tuesday night.

The Vandals responded by getting in the zone on offense during a decisive 20-0 first-half run.

VCHS hit 8 of 10 from the field during the scintillating six-minute span, turning a 12-9 deficit into a 29-12 lead.

The Vandals (7-8) cruised from there to a 63-52 victory, bouncing back strong from a disappointing eighth-place finish at the Vandalia Holiday Tournament.

"I thought it was a positive effort, on the whole," Vandals coach Kevin Jackson said.

"I thought we moved the ball very well," added Jackson, whose team wound up shooting 54 percent from the field (22 of 41). "We hit the mid post, we hit the short corner, and we skipped it well. I thought we did a lot of things we needed to do."

The Vandals moved the ball beautifully all night, finishing with at least 13 assists, and they held off a furious Cavaliers comeback attempt in the second half by doing something they struggled to do in their previous game (an overtime loss) against Wesclin – hit free throws.

VCHS hit its first 11 charity attempts and finished 14 of 18 from the stripe (78 percent) for the game.

As a result, Carlinville got no closer than eight points of the Vandals’ in final 16 minutes, as VCHS saw a 15-point halftime lead dwindle, but not completely dissipate.

"When you’re up 15 at the half, you’d like to keep it there, or maybe a little higher," said Jackson of holding off a Cavaliers team that came in averaging a respectable 54 points-per-game. "But they had some athletes out there. They’ve got some quickness.

"They’re a tough team to guard. They got the ball there to the middle a little too much, so that’s something we’ll need to work on."

One thing the Vandals apparently don’t need to work on is getting ready for games on days in which school is out of session.

Classes were cancelled at VCHS Tuesday due to icy road conditions, but the Vandals had little trouble warming up in their 10th game away from VCHS already this season.

"Sometimes in those situations you struggle out of the gate and aren’t ready to play," Jackson said. "But I think our kids, for the most part, were ready to go."

The Vandals took the lead for good on a Marty Johnson 3-pointer late in the first quarter and they took complete control in the first four minutes of the second period.

Johnson added two more 3-pointers during that span, while Wollerman scored three baskets, including a transition bucket off a steal by Dylan Durr that capped the 20-0 run. Durr also added a 3-pointer during the run, which started with an Angel Osorio putback.

Thanks to the run, the Vandals wound up shooting 58 percent from the field in the first half, as Johnson (12) and Wollerman (11) both found themselves in double figures at intermission.

Wollerman would go on to score a season-high 19 points, adding six rebounds and five assists. The senior was 9 of 10 from the free-throw line in a fine all-around performance.

Johnson added 13 points and five rebounds, while Will Cowger chipped in 12 points and seven rebounds in a balanced attack.

"We got four players in double figures (scoring), which is what we’ve been looking for all year," Jackson said.

Drew Bell was the fourth Vandal in double figures with 10 points, but his contributions on the defensive end were even bigger, as he held Carlinville leading scorer Grant Chandler to just nine points

"We held Chandler to nine; he’s averaging 20," Jackson said. "I told the Drew and the team in the locker room after the game that that’s a great effort. You take a guy averaging 20 and you hold him to half that… that’s a pretty solid effort."

Bell also had at least four assists

Younger brother Daniel Bell led the junior varsity Vandals to a victory over the Cavaliers, pumping in 18 points in a 52-38 win.

Drew Stewart added 17 points for the Vandals (2-4), who snapped a four-game losing streak.

Justin Rubin and Dathan Berning chipped in six points apiece for the Vandals, while Matt Hoffman had five.

Last Tuesday’s VHT

7th-Place Game

Wesclin 61, Vandalia 57, OT

Missed free throws by the Vandals in the fourth quarter helped Wesclin rally to force overtime.

The Vandalia Holiday Tournament defending champions then handed the host team a frustrating loss by hitting 10 of 12 from the charity stripe in the extra session.

The Vandals looked to be in control early in the fourth quarter after Johnson gave VCHS a seven-point advantage, 40-33, with a nifty spin move.

Vandalia enjoyed a six-point lead with 2:55 to go after Durr found Johnson for a jumper.

But the Vandals hit just 2 out of 6 from the free-throw line in the final 4 1/2 minutes of regulation – including a pair of misses on the front ends of one-and-one opportunities in the final 2 1/2 minutes that allowed a Phil Kunz bucket to tie the game with about a half minute remaining. The Vandals had led the entire second half before Kunz evened things up.

VCHS had plenty of time to counter, but after a pair of timeouts, the Vandals turned the ball over with three seconds remaining. Fortunately, a Kunz fadeaway jumper was wide right at the buzzer.

The Warriors quickly took their first lead since the first half with a pair of free throws to start off the extra session, however, and went up for good on Zach Haselhorst 3-pointer with 2:50 remaining.

Kunz extended Wesclin’s lead to five moments later, and the Warriors held the Vandals off down the stretch by scoring eight points from the foul line in the final two minutes.

Johnson scored a career-high 24 points in the setback, hitting 5 of 9 from beyond the arc, while Durr had a season-best 10 points, to go along with five rebounds and five steals. 

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