On a night where winter stubbornly refused to end, the winter basketball season had to come to a close for one team.
Tuesday night in Kirkwood, that was the case for the Pacific Indians (22-6), who saw their season ended in the Class 4 sectional round by Parkway Central (24-5), 70-60.
The win brings the Colts to Washington Saturday for the state quarterfinals against Jennings (26-3). That game tips off at 2:45 p.m.
A telling factor in how the sectional game went is how often both teams got to the free-throw line.
For Parkway Central, it was a whopping 43 times. For Pacific, just 14.
The Colts made good on 28 of their free-throw opportunities. Pacific made 8-14.
“The free throw discrepancy was just unreal,” Pacific Head Coach John VanLeer said.
Trey Boyer had another one of his best games of the season, leading Pacific with 18 points.
Boyer also dealt out six assists with four rebounds and two steals.
“He stepped up at the right time, definitely,” VanLeer said. “He’s played really well in districts. He kind of carried us in the Sullivan game and played really well the other night against Borgia. He was huge in this game too.”
Cameron VanLeer recorded 11 points for the Indians, picking up five rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Tom Hennessy and Ryan Sauvage scored six points apiece.
Sauvage pulled down three rebounds with two assists and one steal.
Jordan Cowsert and Matt Strong each ended with five points.
Strong, Hennessy and Joey Casey each pulled down two rebounds.
Cowsert recorded one rebound.
For the Colts, start guard Deandre Campbell led the way with 33 points.
Seventeen of Campbell’s points came from the free-throw line.
Arther Green and Devion Harris also broke into double figures for Parkway Central.
Green scored 15 points and Harris 11.
Other scorers included Jake Silvestri (five points), Gerald Lenoir (three), Romello Ball (two) and Jayden Littlejohn (one point).
Early in the game Pacific surged ahead of Parkway Central with an electric first quarter and led 18-14 at the end of the first period.
By midway through the second quarter, Pacific had built itself a 30-18 advantage through sharing the ball and getting open three-point looks.
“We’ve done that all year,” Coach VanLeer said. “We were a good team all year and the kids came out and really focused on our game plan and moved the ball well and different guys made big shots for us. Can’t say enough about all the kids on the team. Ryan hit some big shots there. Joey Casey hit some big shots in the first half. Trey made some big shots and played with his usual toughness.”
In total, Pacific went 10-27 in three-point attempts in the game, but didn’t miss many in the first 12 minutes of play.
The tide turned though as Cameron VanLeer and Matt Strong went to the bench after their second personal fouls and Hennessy was fouled going for a dunk. Hennessy came off the floor to be evaluated after making both his free throws and later returned to the game in the second half with his right hand taped.
With three senior starters on the bench for Pacific, Parkway Central capitalized by closing the gap to a 32-29 Pacific lead at halftime.
“That hurts,” Coach VanLeer said. “That’s our two biggest guys and I took Tom out just to make sure he was okay and it was hurting him a little bit. He did come back and play some later on, but that was a big point in the game.”
The Colts kept the momentum coming out of the half, first tying the score at 33 and then pulling ahead for good on a pair of three point shots from Green and Campbell a couple minutes into the second half.
Parkway Central held a 46-35 lead at the end of the third quarter.
From the midway point second quarter until nearly three minutes into the fourth period, Parkway Central outscored the Indians, 28-5.
Pacific was then able to match the Colts shot for shot for the next two minutes before a three pointer from Casey and two threes and a two from Boyer in rapid succession cut the lead down to four at 60-56 with 1:29 left on the clock.
“There’s no quit in these kids,” Coach VanLeer said. “The six seniors have just got that fight. We won quite a few games like that over the last few years. Their junior year at Jefferson City, we were down 20 going into the fourth quarter and we came back and won. We were down double digits with four minutes to go there and I think we got it back to six. They were making shots and I really thought we had a chance, but (Central) had some guys step up and make some free throws down the stretch that normally don’t make that high percentage of free throws.”
That was the closest Pacific got as the Indians kept sending Parkway Central to the line late in order to prolong the game and the Colts pulled back away to win by 10.
The loss finishes the careers of seniors Cameron VanLeer, Boyer, Strong, Casey, Hennessy and Sauvage, a group that finally helped their coach reach the state playoffs with his first district title in 25 years.
“Just their grit and their determination, the way they play together and they lead,” Coach VanLeer said of his senior group. “I think they’ve taken our program and winning that district championship last week and getting that monkey off my back and for the community, winning the district for the first time in 36 years — they made a mark on Pacific basketball.”