John VanLeer’s 300th career victory was a big one.
In a boys basketball contest between the two remaining teams in Four Rivers Conference play, Pacific took sole possession of first place with a 46-37 win over Sullivan.
“We’re pretty evenly matched. They have great athletes who play super hard,” VanLeer said. “We expected another tough game against them and that’s what we got.”
In his 21st season as Pacific’s head coach, VanLeer recorded his 300th career victory.
Scott Brown, VanLeer’s assistant coach, has been there for all 300 wins.
“I’ve had kids who do what I ask them to do and play within the system. I’ve had a great administration who lets me do things my way and have supported me. We have a great community and we’ve had a great coaching staff,” VanLeer said. “Having Scott with me for 21 years as an assistant coach is huge. I’ve always felt that I have the better coaches on the lower levels. Every coach on our staff, other than Coach Brown and Coach (Greg) Hrdlicka, played for me. Our little league program is good. My family has been very supportive.”
Sullivan Head Coach Dino McKinney, another veteran coach in the FRC, praised VanLeer.
“John does an unbelievable job. It’s a great accomplishment,” McKinney said. “We’ve gone against each other a number of times. A few of those 300 wins have come at my expense. His kids always are prepared and play hard.”
So does VanLeer have another 300 wins left in him?
“We’ll have to pick up the pace for that to happen,” VanLeer said. “I’m fired up every year, so I don’t see myself not coaching. I love being around the kids and the competition.”
Pacific (17-4) now stands with a 5-0 FRC record with games against Hermann and St. Clair remaining. Sullivan and St. James both are 4-1.
“Both teams we have left are good enough to beat us,” VanLeer said. “We can’t overlook anyone. “We have to keep getting better.”
Sullivan (18-5) held leads of 13-8 after one quarter and 24-23 at halftime, but was outscored 23-13 in the second half.
“We missed too many free throws in the second half. We missed six or seven two-footers in the first half. In a game that’s going to be close, you have to make those shots,” McKinney said. “We’ve shot free throws well all year, but we were 2-12 in the second half.”
Cullen VanLeer led the Indians with 17 points. Jeffrey Hinkle added eight points.
Tanner Brown finished with six points. Noah Boyer netted five points. Chris Klenke registered four points. Zach Kraus scored three points. Logan Armstrong had two points.
“We didn’t play real well in the first quarter, but we started making plays and making shots. Those are things that good teams do. Good teams find ways to win,” VanLeer said. “All 10 guys who played contributed in positive ways.”
Justin Biermann paced Sullivan with 16 points.
Heath Schatz finished with nine points. Michael McDermott scored eight points. Chris Erxleben and Logan Hoffman both had two points.
“We handled their zone well, which is something we didn’t do the last time we played them,” McKinney said. “Defensively, we were pretty good. It was a physical game, which played in their hands. We’ve had a chance in all five of our losses, which is frustrating.”
Pacific locked down defensively in the second half.
“They were patient and made us guard them. We weren’t real focused defensively in the first half,” VanLeer said. “We came out in our 1-3-1 to start the second half, but later went back to our man-to-man, which is our bread and butter.”