Pacific hopes Tuesday’s boys basketball win at Hermann was not its final game away from home this season.
An appearance in the state playoffs would be the Indians’ only chance of playing away from the Reservation from here on out.
The Indians broke open a close game in the second half for a 57-36 Four Rivers Conference victory over the Bearcats.
Pacific (14-9, 4-2) has two regular season games remaining, both at home, before hosting the Class 4 District 9 Tournament Feb. 25-March 2.
The Indians played Friday against St. Clair and hosts De Soto Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Bulldogs (12-10, 6-0) were going for the outright FRC title.
“St. Clair already has at least a share of the conference title. It would be a lot nicer for us if they finished 6-1 and we were 5-2 at the end of the night,” said Pacific Head Coach John VanLeer. “We’ve beaten them twice. Doing it three times will be tough. We’ll be prepared. It’s our courtwarming. Both teams should have good crowds. It will be a great atmosphere.”
Against Hermann, the Indians led 25-22 at halftime and outscored the Bearcats 32-14 in the second half.
“It was a slow start to the game. Both teams scored 17 points in the second quarter. We didn’t do a good job defending the three-pointer in the second quarter,” said VanLeer. “The difference in the game was the third quarter. We got them to turn it over, which created some offensive opportunities.”
It was a big game for Pacific’s Cullen VanLeer, who finished with 29 points, five assists, three rebounds and three steals. He was 9-10 from the free-throw line. “Cullen did a good job getting into the lane and attacking the basket,” VanLeer said. “He also posted up a little and got to the free-throw line.”
Jeffrey Hinkle finished the game with eight points and four rebounds.
“In the first half, Jeffrey had three or four offensive rebounds that he turned into points,” Hinkle said.
Neil DeBold and Tanner Brown both added seven points. DeBold had four rebounds. Brown had three assists and two steals.
“Neil had a great third quarter,” VanLeer said. “He got four offensive rebounds and a couple of put backs.”
Zeth Boyer collected four points, six rebounds and three steals.
Logan Armstrong and Zach Kraus both scored two points. Kraus added three rebounds and two steals.
Noah Boyer had two assists and two steals. Brendan Jett-Kell added two steals.
Also playing were Stephen Watson, Brandon Colter, Stephen Johnson, Chris Klenke and Brett Mann.
Pacific shot 44 percent from the field, had 13 steals and was 12-15 from the free-throw line.
“We were much more patient on offense and took better shots,” VanLeer said. “It was just a better all-around game than some of our recent games.”
Tim Spiers’ Bearcats (12-12, 2-4) were led by Collin Hart, who scored 13 points.
Craig Winkelmann finished with nine points. Jon Baumstark netted seven points. Matt Hug scored five points. Josh Schannuth had two points.
“We left Hart open too many times. We did a good job defending their other players,” VanLeer said. “They scored 17 points in the second quarter, but just 19 points combined in the other three quarters.”
Hermann played its regular season finale Friday at Union. The Bearcats are seeded sixth for next week’s Class 3 District 6 Tournament at North Callaway, opening Tuesday against third-seeded North Callaway at 9 p.m.
Pacific opens district action Feb. 28 at home against either Sullivan or Owensville at 7:30 p.m.