By ANDREW WILLIAMS
VAN BUREN — If there was any rust from a week-long period between games, Van Buren certainly didn’t show it Friday night.
The Black Knights raced out to a 15-0 lead less than four minutes into the game, led 31-5 at the end of the first quarter thanks to 16 points from senior Sawyer Junge and cruised to a 96-34 victory against Hardin Northern in Blanchard Valley Conference action.
“Our team plays so much better when Sawyer Junge comes out and he starts hitting his shots from the start,” Van Buren coach Marc Bishop said. “That happened tonight. He got the ball the first possession and hit a 3 and our team just rallies around him. I’m glad he hit it, his first shot.”
Junge was the go-to guy in the first half, but his Black Knight teammates certainly followed his lead.
Eight different players scored before halftime as Van Buren shot a blistering 62.5 percent (20 of 32) in the opening two quarters, including 72 percent (18 of 25) from inside the arc, to go into the half up 51-14.
Hardin Northern (1-14, 0-6 BVC) did nothing to help itself, committing turnovers on its first three possessions of the game. The Polar Bears finished the first half with more turnovers (17) than points (14) and lost the battle on the glass 14-4.
“I challenge our guys every game and we’ve done it all season, is we talk about defense and our intensity on defense,” Bishop said. “I thought our guys came out a little bit more energetic tonight compared to usual. We got out in the passing lanes a little bit better and that spurred us on defense.”
The biggest hindrance for the Polar Bears in terms of production was their lack of ability to match the Black Knights’ intensity on the floor at any point during the game.
“Effort. We didn’t have any effort tonight,” Hardin Northern coach Craig Hershey said. It’s “just fundamentals, wanting to play basketball every day, wanting to come to the gym and play. We’re just not doing that right now for some reason.”
Junge capped off a 30-point performance with a 3-pointer late in the third quarter that put Van Buren ahead 68-19.
Freshman Riley Adolph made the most of his playing time in the fourth quarter hitting all five of his shot attempts, including going 4 of 4 from 3-point range to finish with 14 points in less than six minutes of action.
The Black Knights finished 62.3 percent (38 of 61) from the floor and made 73.2 percent (30 of 41) of their 2-point attempts. They also outrebounded the Polar Bears 27-15 and forced 29 turnovers, while committing just seven themselves.
“They came out in a zone and typically we get pretty quick on offense,” Bishop said. “We’ll come down and we’ll settle for a 3-point shot. Tonight I thought we had a lot of poise on offense, reversed the ball around the perimeter, had some nice high-low action and it worked out well.”
Braxton Fasone added 10 points, Daniel Roberts finished with nine points and Mac Williams grabbed six rebounds for Van Buren.
Jacob Gossard nailed four 3-pointers and led Hardin Northern with 23 points.
HARDIN NORTHERN (1-14, 0-6 BVC)
S. Drumm 0-0—0, Obenour 2-0—5, Gossard 7-5—23, Watts 0-0—0, Lamb 1-1—3, Wilhelm 1-0—2, Prichard 0-1—1. TOTALS: 11-35 7-10 — 34.
VAN BUREN (9-6, 5-2 BVC)
B. Fasone 5-0—10, Endicott 4-0—8, Jacobs 2-2—6, Junge 10-6—30, Brand 3-0—6, Roberts 4-1—9, Franklin 2-1—5, Turner 0-0—0, Williams 3-2—8, 5-0—14. TOTALS: 38-61 12-17 — 96.
Hardin Northern 5 9 8 12 — 34
Van Buren 31 20 23 22 — 96
3-Point GOALS: Hardin Northern 5-14 (Gossard 4, Obenour); Van Buren 8-20 (Junge & Adolph 4).
rebounds: Hardin Northern 15 (Gossard 4); Van Buren 27 (Williams 6).
turnovers: Hardin Northern 29; Van Buren 7.
junior varsity: Van Buren, 66-15.