The Pacific Indians are district champions in boys basketball.
Head Coach John VanLeer has waited 25 years for that to become a reality for his program and it finally came to pass in his youngest son’s senior season.
“We’re going to go back to work and talk about it,” VanLeer said. “We’re going to enjoy this tonight, but on Sunday, it’s time to prepare for the next one. They’re not ready to be done.”
Now that it has, the Indians (22-5) still have more basketball to play this year.
Tuesday night, Pacific tips off against Parkway Central (23-5) in the sectional round of the state tournament in Kirkwood at 7:45 p.m.
Parkway Central finished fourth in the Class 4 state tournament last season.
“We’re not done yet. These guys are super confident and they’ll just lay it on the line. I don’t have to get on a kid for not playing hard,” VanLeer said.
Pacific senior Cameron VanLeer said it’s going to take another big game to continue the season.
“We know Parkway Central is a very good team,” VanLeer said. “Deandre Campbell is a great player. We’re just going to get back into the gym and work. We’re not done yet. We’re going to keep going.”
Parkway Central defeated Borgia in last year’s sectional round. Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier feels the Indians have a chance to win.
“This is a good Parkway Central team,” Neier said. “If Pacific plays up to its abilities, it has a chance.”
Pacific and Parkway Central have not played each other dating as far back as the 1999-2000 season.
Pacific shares two common opponents with the Colts this season, Rockwood Summit and Lafayette.
Both teams were victorious against Rockwood Summit. Parkway Central routed the Falcons, 55-38, at Summit on Dec. 8 and Pacific topped Summit, 62-50, in the first round of the Rolla Holiday Tournament Dec. 28.
Lafayette got the better of Pacific in the Lancers’ home gym, 56-50, back on Dec. 5. Parkway Central defeated Lafayette, 45-28, in the third place game of the Parkway West Tournament Jan. 26.
One of the teams to defeat Parkway Central this season has been Jennings, whom Pacific defeated in a preseason jamboree scrimmage at Westminster.
Jennings was the last team to beat Parkway Central, 58-56, doing so in a home game Feb. 16.
The team that advances from this section will next play Saturday at 2:45 p.m. at Washington High School in the Class 4 quarterfinals.
The other team in that quarterfinal will come from the sectional matchup between Wentzville Liberty (20-7) and Jennings (25-3), which is taking place Tuesday at Francis Howell Central at 7:45 p.m.
“Hopefully we can get to state,” Pacific senior Trey Boyer said. “We’ve been playing together since third grade and we all bond well and play well together. We know our roles.”
The Indians have enjoyed one of their best regular seasons, going over 20 wins with five or fewer losses for the third time in the last five seasons.
However, this time they’re still playing beyond the district tournament. The Indians received the top seed in Class 4 District 6 after picking up regular season wins over every district opponent they played, which was all but Parkway West.
Pacific also made an undefeated 7-0 run through the Four Rivers Conference.
The Indians earned the right to play on by defeating Sullivan, 49-43, in the district semifinals and then ended on a 7-0 run in the final minutes to top Borgia, 50-43, in Friday’s championship game.
Despite ending the regular season on a loss, the Indians have won nine of their last 10 games.
In tournament play this year, Pacific claimed the championship at the Kansas Army National Guard Invitational, took second place at Borgia’s annual Turkey Tournament and third place at the Rolla Holiday Tournament.
The only five teams to defeat the Indians this season have been McCluer North, Lafayette, Hogan Prep, Eureka and Farmington.
Senior guard Cameron VanLeer, the youngest son of Coach VanLeer, has been Pacific’s top performer this season, averaging 20 points per game with 8.8 rebounds and 4.52 assists per night.
Senior guards Trey Boyer (7.4 points per game) and Matt Strong (7.2 ppg) are the next two best scoring weapons for the Indians.
Boyer mans the point and provides more of a slashing presence while Strong puts up the majority of his shots from three-point distance at a 39.5 percent clip.
Senior Joey Casey and juniors Jordan Cowsert and Mason Fleming are also valuable outside shooters for the Pacific backcourt.
Senior forwards Tom Hennessy (6.6 ppg) and Ryan Sauvage (5.7 ppg) man the Indians’ front court and freshman swingman Don’TA Harris has proven capable of providing a spark off the bench.
Parkway Central, like Pacific, earned the top seed in its district.
The Colts reached the sectional round with district victories at MICDS against the host school, 50-32, and against John Burroughs in the championship game, 66-50.
Earlier in the season, Parkway West took third place in both the MICDS Holiday Invitational and the Parkway West Classic, as well as sweeping the rest of the Parkway School District in the Gerald Linneman Memorial Tip-Off Classic.
Teams to beat the Colts this season include Wentzville Liberty (twice), Romeoville (Ill.), Duchesne and Jennings.
Campbell, a senior guard, leaves little doubt who the top scoring threat at Parkway Central is, averaging 23.9 points per game this season.
He became the school’s all-time leading scorer earlier this season, surpassing the old record of 1,684 held by Walter Moore.
He’s been held below 20 points in just six games this season and has yet to turn in a game with less than 11 points.
Campbell also leads the team in assists per game with 4.93 and is among the team’s top rebounders at 4.6 per game.
The team’s other three primary scoring weapons come from senior forward Arthur Green (10.8 points per game), sophomore forward Devion Harris (9.0 ppg) and junior guard Jake Silvestri (8.0 ppg).
Silvestri is the team’s top outside shooter, taking 153 attempts from beyond the three-point arc this season and making 56 (36.6 percent).
Harris provides a valuable inside presence defensively, where he averages a little more than two blocked shots per game.