By ANDY WOLF
MCCOMB — McComb found a sense of urgency midway through the third quarter that sparked a 13-0 run that stretched into the opening minutes of the fourth. But the Panthers had only cut away half of their 24-point deficit to trail 62-49.
Van Buren soon got back on its game and never let McComb get any closer in earning a 72-55 Blanchard Valley Conference boys basketball victory Friday night.
“We kept telling our kids they weren’t going to go away,” Van Buren assistant coach Mike Lee said, filling in for absent head coach Tyler Niekamp. “They’ve got too many weapons offensively.
“The (Koby) Gustwiller kid got hot at an opportune time for them. We burned a timeout to hopefully get our kids back into an attack mode offensively. We were doing that up until that stretch in the third quarter.”
Gustwiller led all scorers with 20 points, including five 3-pointers, for McComb (2-4, 2-1 BVC), which entered the game as the last BVC team unbeaten in league play.
Carson Goble paced Van Buren (7-3, 4-1 BVC) with 17 points, nine rebounds and three steals.
He recorded 10 points and six rebounds by halftime as the Black Knights took a commanding 44-27 lead that was due in large part to their domination on the backboards.
Van Buren held an 18-3 edge on the boards at the break, 8-0 on the offensive end, and finished at 35-11 overall.
Van Buren’s Nick McCracken chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds while Connor Ohlrich had 13 points and five rebounds. Brady Rader also had seven points and five rebounds
“We’re really working hard and we know that we’re going to make a lot of shots but we’re going to miss a lot too,” Goble said of their rebounding. “Second-chance points are a big part of the basketball game so we knew we had to get them.”
Van Buren racked up 11 second-chance points in the first half, 17 for the game.
Gustwiller caught fire in the third quarter by draining four of his 3-pointers, including two during McComb’s 11-0 run to end the third quarter.
“That’s a good game from Koby, something I’ve expected out of him,” McComb coach Nick Latta said. “He’s three-year varsity starter so I expect that out of him.”
The Black Knights led by as much as 25 at 58-33 midway through the third quarter and were ahead 60-36 before the Panthers turned it on.
McComb’s press worked like a charm for six Van Buren turnovers in seven possessions to end the third quarter, and two more to start the fourth. But ultimately Van Buren’s lead was just too much to overcome.
“Way too big of a hole; we didn’t play very well defensively in the first half,” Latta said. “Giving up way too many points and just too big of a hole to dig ourselves out of.”
After McComb’s Jared Dillon scored over Van Buren’s Aaron Clark in the post, the action went back the other way. Clark got one back at Dillon by scoring over him on the left block with the foul. Clark missed the free throw, caught his own miss and converted the putback.
Van Buren was back up and running like its first-half self.
“We knew they were going to come out ready to get the ball back,” Goble said. “We calmed down too much than what we should’ve. We should’ve kept the pedal down, kept trying to score, but we slowed down and they took advantage of it.”
When the Black Knights weren’t relying on second-chance points, they used fluid ball movement and shot 56 percent (26 of 46) on the night.
“This is probably the best ball movement we’ve had this year so far,” Goble said. “So, we’ve got to keep that up. Our passing was great so we’ve got really good shots which caused us to take a big lead in the first half.”
VAN BUREN (7-3, 4-1 BVC)
Lance 1-0–2, Ohlrich 4-4–13, Rader 3-1–7, McCracken 4-2–10, Warren 1-0–3, Goble 5-6–17, Kramer 5-0–13, Clark 3-1–7. TOTALS: 26-46 13-22–72.
MCCOMB (2-4, 2-1 BVC)
Schroeder 6-0–13, Davis 3-1–8, Durfey 2-0–5, Simons 0-2–2, Gustwiller 7-3–20, Dillon 2-1–3. TOTALS: 20-48 7-10–55.
Van Buren 24 20 16 12 — 72
McComb 11 11 20 8 — 55
3-Point GOALS: Van Buren 6-14 (Kramer 3, Ohlrich, Warren & Goble); McComb 8-24 (Gustwiller 5, Durfey, Davis & Schroeder).
rebounds: Van Buren 35 (Goble 9); McComb 11 (Schroeder 4).
turnovers: Van Buren 18; McComb 19.
junior varsity: Van Buren, 51-44.