The Vandalia boys basketball team’s formula for success revolves around two fundamental concepts – solid defense and patience on offense.
The Vandals continued to perfect that formula in conference play over the weekend, extending their win streak in South Central Conference East Division play to five games with double-digit victories over Staunton and Hillsboro.
The Vandals now find themselves all alone in second place in the SCC-East standings at 7-2 with one league game to play. There is still an outside shot they could share the conference title with Greenville if things break just right down the stretch.
"I remember saying (at the beginning of the season) 8-2 would be great, 7-3 would be good and 6-4 I’d take," Vandals coach Kevin Jackson said. "Well, we’re going to beat the 6-4, and we’re going to either be 8-2 or 7-3."
Vandalia completed a season sweep of Staunton Friday at home with a 58-45 win, holding a league foe under 50 points for the eighth time in nine conference games this season.
The Vandals were also efficient on offense against the Bulldogs’ 1-3-1 zone, shooting 57 percent from the field (20 for 35), in addition to hitting over 70 percent of their free throws (17 of 22) for the fifth game in a row.
"We’re pleased," Jackson said. "I thought it was another nice effort.
"We’ve talked a lot about being disciplined offensively and defensively, and I think it was another game where we were certainly in that category tonight."
The Vandals were especially effective on both ends of the court in the first quarter, racing out to a 16-6 lead thanks to 6 of 10 shooting from the floor, 4 of 4 shooting from the foul line and five Staunton turnovers.
Point guard Dylan Durr was forced to the bench after picking up his second foul early in the second quarter, however, and the Vandals struggled mightily for the rest of the half, committing eight turnovers and scoring just four points in the frame without their floor leader.
Fortunately, Staunton was unable to take full advantage – cutting into the Vandals’ lead, but not overtaking the host team – as VCHS held a 20-15 lead at halftime.
Trouble appeared to be brewing when Durr was whistled for his third foul early in the second half. But the call was overruled by another official, and the foul was assessed to another player, allowing Durr to stay on the floor.
The Vandals, in turn, rediscovered their offensive mojo, using a 12-6 run over the first 3:30 of the third quarter to extend their lead back out to double digits. Staunton never got any closer than seven points of VCHS the rest of the way.
"Dylan is a major, major key to us, and when he was off the floor, it wasn’t very pretty at all," Jackson said. "If he’d gotten that third foul at the start of the third quarter, the game would have been a lot different."
Ball movement was also a key for the Vandals in the second half, as they recorded assists on 11 of their 12 field goals in the final 16 minutes. They wound up with 16 assists on their 20 field goals for the game.
"The ball was moving in the third and fourth quarter very well," Jackson said. "They were in chase mode, and we were getting layups or very easy baskets."
Marty Johnson led the Vandals with seven assists, while Drew Bell and Austin Wollerman added three apiece, as Vandalia picked apart the Bulldogs’ zone with a patient approach.
"We made them work," Jackson said. "With a 1-3-1 (zone), if you’ve got 6-foot-5, 6-6 athletes running around the floor, it’s pretty tough. But if you don’t, you can find gaps. Fortunately for us, we were able to find those gaps and get some easy baskets."
Bell’s three assists were just part of an outstanding all-around game for the senior guard, who tied for team-high honors with 17 points, hitting all six of his field goal attempts and 5 of 6 free throws. He also had three steals and three rebounds.
Will Cowger also had 17 points, hitting 6 of 9 field goals and 5 of 6 free throws.
Wollerman added 10 points and six rebounds, hitting 3 of 4 field goals and 4 of 4 free throws.
Daniel Bell scored 17 points and Bryan Hosick added 11, as the Vandals edged the Bulldogs, 45-44, for their fourth win in a row.
Nathan Henna chipped in six points, while Codey Norris had five.
Vandalia 50, Hillsboro 37
The Vandals’ fifth straight double-digit win over an SCC-East foe completed a season sweep of the struggling Hiltoppers.
Just as they did the first time they met Hillsboro, the Vandals used a big third quarter to bust open a narrow halftime lead.
VCHS led by just one, 21-20, at intermission, but outscored the host Hiltoppers 15-7 in the third quarter.
The inside duo of Wollerman and Cowger led the way for the Vandals, scoring 15 and 13 points, respectively. Wollerman also had a team-best seven rebounds, while Cowger had five boards.
The Vandals enjoyed another solid shooting night, hitting 18 of 33 field goal attempts (55 percent).
Johnson dished out seven assists in the win, while Dylan Durr had four steals.
The Vandals will look to clinch second place in the conference with a Senior Night win over Pana on Feb. 21.
Hosick had 15 points and Bell had 12 in the Vandals’ latest victory, an easy 52-37 decision over the Hiltoppers.
Drew Stewart chipped in eight points.