SPENCER, Tenn.–All it takes is a spark, but sometimes that spark doesn’t ignite the whole inferno, just parts of it.
Van Buren County experienced that feeling Tuesday night with a 54-36win as they clashed with Marion County in a District 6A showdown that had heavy postseason implications. The buzz came after a free throw went in for the Warriors right out of the gates. Responding, junior guard Caden Mills drove up the lane and in for the slam dunk to start out scoring for the home team.
“You would have thought the dunk by Caden would have set the tone for this one,” Eagles head coach Dustin Sullivan said. “Just about as fast as that happened, we retreated and didn’t hardly do anything. You would have thought that would help initially, but that wasn’t the case.”
After scoring 22 points in the 1st quarter, the Eagles only mustered up four and were actually outscored by Marion County in that period. Mills and Bo Walker, though, made their presence known initially with jams of their own in the 1st along with two 3-pointers by Mills. The Warrior defense, led by Ty Heifner and Kane Hale, eventually adjusted late in the 1st to slow down the Van Buren County machine.
“Marion County clogged it up and we didn’t shoot the ball well,” Sullivan said, referring to the 2nd period. “If we knocked down some shots, maybe we get rolling a little better. We hit two threes early in the first quarter, and then we didn’t hit another one. That’s unlike us. We hit two and they packed it in and did a good job rebounding out of it.”
After getting out of the second quarter, Van Buren County still struggled a tad on the offensive side of the ball, but they maintained a double-digit cushion, eventually stretching a 10-point lead to a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter.
“Outside of the first three or four minutes, we didn’t do much at all,” Sullivan said. “We got just enough stops to build a little bit of a lead there. Jared Binkley had a better second half, a good third quarter. We we’re just too inconsistent.”
Both Mills and Walker finished the night at the top of the scoring list with 15 points each and much of that coming in the first quarter of play. Binkley picked up 10 with eight of those coming in the third quarter down in the paint.
The Eagles remain undefeated in district play thus far this season with a 5-0 record and have a 20-game district win streak dating back to 2014. And although district wins are important, Van Buren’s postseason success relies on different variables.
“Any district win is important,” Sullivan said. “We talk a lot about just playing good. If you play good, the wins and losses will take care of themselves. Sometimes you can play bad and win, and sometimes you can play good and lose. Coming out of Christmas right now, we’re not playing too good.“
The Eagles take on Lookout Valley on Thursday down in Tiftonia while the Warriors get ready to regroup for in-county rival Whitwell on Friday.
MCHS — 14 | 5 | 10 | 7 || 36
VBHS — 22 | 4 | 16 | 12 || 54
MCHS (36) — Kane Hale (18), CJ Bowman (11), Ty Heifner (5)
VBHS (54) — Caden Mills (15), Bo Walker (15), Jared Binkley (10)