The old adage of “defense wins championships” proved to be true during this year’s Owensville Boys Basketball Tournament.
In the 24th year of the event, top-seeded Pacific (9-4) set tournament records for fewest points allowed in one game (13 against Steelville) and for the tournament (74) en route to its second consecutive title.
During Saturday’s championship game, the Indians knocked off second-seeded Sullivan, 53-20.
“I’m proud of our team. I wasn’t much of an offensive player as far as scoring, but I could guard. Our guys have bought into that,” said Pacific Head Coach John VanLeer. “We’re hard to score on right now. My assistant coaches have done a good job helping us get prepared. We’re taking away the strengths of every team, which gives us a chance to win every night.”
Trailing 7-2 with 4 1/2 minutes elapsed in the first quarter, Pacific called a timeout and then proceeded to outscore Sullivan 35-7 over the next 19 minutes of
“We started to follow the scouting report. We got focused on defense,” VanLeer said. “After I took the timeout, we got it fixed. Zack Kraus came in and gave us a big lift on defense. Then everybody fed off that.”
Sullivan (9-4) didn’t have many answers for Pacific’s defense.
“We couldn’t throw it in the ocean tonight. Their defense is good, it really is,” said Sullivan Head Coach Dino McKinney. “We haven’t shot the ball very well from the outside for a while. If we don’t force turnovers and get a lot of easy baskets, we don’t score that much. That’s something we work on every day. We have to keep getting better.”
Pacific sophomore Cullen VanLeer was named the MVP of the tournament for the second straight season.
“My teammates really helped out,” Cullen VanLeer said. “Our defense is way better than it was last year. It was a good team effort.”
Cullen VanLeer said the Indians take pride in the way they play defense.
“We communicate really well on defense. Everybody buys into it,” he said. “We don’t have one person who breaks down. We’re always out there ready to D up.”
Pacific’s Zeth Boyer and Tanner Brown were named to the second-team all-tournament team.
Sullivan’s Justin Biermann and Seth Mesey were named to the first team. Adam Weiland was on the second team. Joe Lochner was given the sixth man award.
VanLeer scored 15 points in the title game for Pacific. Boyer and Brown both added 10 points.
Logan Armstrong finished with six points. Jeffrey Hinkle netted four points. Noah Boyer and Brandon Colter both scored three points. Neil DeBold had two points.
Brendan Jett-Kell, Zach Kraus and Stephen Watson also played.
“That’s how we’re the best, when we get everyone involved,” John VanLeer said. “Early in the year, we had to rely on one person to score a lot. Now we have a lot of people who can score. They can’t just key on Cullen. That makes it easier on him and makes us a much better basketball team. Sharing the basketball is how we play.”
Mesey scored 11 points to pace the Eagles. Biermann added four points. Weiland and Heath Schatz both scored two points. Chris Erxleben had one point.
“You don’t win many games when you’re 6-35 from the field and 6-14 from the free-throw line. We’re a lot better team than what we showed. We have to get better,” McKinney said. “John does a great job teaching those kids how to play defense. They were in the right spots. We had a lot of open looks. We just didn’t make anything. They took away Seth inside pretty well. When they do that and we can’t hit from the outside, it’s pretty tough.”
Trailing 9-7 after one quarter, Pacific held leads of 23-12 at halftime and 37-14 after three quarters.
“We started off a little slow. After that timeout, we turned it up a notch. We were focused in after that,” Cullen VanLeer said. “Nothing was going to stop us from getting the championship.”
Pacific defeated fourth-seeded Hermann Friday in the semifinals, 58-41.
VanLeer scored 22 points for the Indians. Brown added 18 points, all in the first half.
“Tanner had a great first half with four threes and 18 points. He got on a roll, which he’s capable of,” John VanLeer said. “We have some other guys who are capable of going on a run like that, too.”
Armstrong finished the game with six points. Zeth Boyer, Hinkle and Colter each added three points. Noah Boyer scored two points. Kraus had one point.
Tim Spiers’ Bearcats (5-9) were led by Craig Winkelmann, who scored 24 points. He was named to the first-team all-tournament team. Collin Hart added 13 points.
Pacific held leads of 14-8 after one quarter, 31-16 at halftime and 40-27 after three quarters.
“We turned them over with our press,” VanLeer said. “The second half of the second quarter was when we got our space.”