Eagles fall in the first round of state tournament

Posted By | March 20, 2017 10:12 am

Caden Mills goes up for a layup on Thursday night. Mills finished the game with 30 points. (Photo by ANDY SOUTHARD)

Last year, the Van County Eagles made sure that everybody in the State of Tennessee knew who the Van Buren County High School Eagles were when they made back to back trips to the state tournament and won their first round game and made it to the final four.

This year, the Eagles were trying to make it to their first-ever trip to Saturday after making it to their third straight trip to the state tournament. But the Eagles fell just short on Thursday night with a 78-69 loss to Columbia Academy.

After one quarter of play, the Eagles garnered an early 23-16 lead late in the quarter, as the Eagles closed out the quarter on an 11-4 run. They were also able to out-rebound the Bulldogs 11-7 in the quarter. But once the second quarter started, the Bulldogs made their run.

The Bulldogs would start the second quarter on a 9-2 run and tie the game up at 25 apiece, with 5:14 remaining. The Eagles would retake the lead, with 4:22 remaining in the half after a pair of Caden Mills free throws at the 4:22 mark to give the Eagles the 27-26 lead. But the Bulldogs would answer with an 8-0 run to end the half and take a 34-27 lead into the locker room.

The Bulldogs would hold a 7-point lead coming out of the half and came out in the third quarter on fire. They would hit three of their first four shots to start off the quarter and take a 42-29 lead, with 6:27 remaining in the quarter. Bo Walker would hit a pair of free throws, with 5:53 remaining in the quarter to cut the Bulldogs lead back to 44-35. But the Bulldogs would answer back with a 3 to take a 12-point lead. The teams would trade baskets for the rest of the quarter, and the Bulldogs would lead 56-43 heading into the final quarter of play.

In the fourth quarter, The Bulldogs would hold a 66-51 lead, with 4:48 remaining in the quarter. Then Mills would try to get his team back in the game. Mills would score 7 straight points for the Eagles to get the lead down to 8 at 66-58, but that’s as close as the Eagles would get, as the Eagles fell 78-69.

Mills led the way for the Eagles with 30 points. Walker chipped in 15 points, and Jared Binkley finished with 9 points. Jacob Crain came away with 5 points, and Austin Miller and Sawyer Shockley finished with 4 points apiece. Hunter Evans rounded out the scoring with 2 points.

After the game Coach, Dustin Sullivan had this to say about the game, “It’s a lot sicker feeling this time,” Sullivan explained. “The first year, it was fun. It was nice. We came in, and we did some stuff. Even if we came back next year and won the whole doggone thing, it’s still not going to make me feel better about blowing this opportunity.”

Sullivan also said, “I felt like they wanted to rebound better than us. I felt like at least four of those rebounds led to second chances. Ironically, our game plan was to out-rebound them. I had two things on the game board. On offense: rebound. On defense: rebound. I told them that if they can do that, they’d be playing tomorrow.”

With the loss, the Eagles finish their season with a 27-8 record and made it three straight trips to the state tournament.

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