Connaway’s bank shot lifts Van-Far past Palmyra and to Tony Lenzini Tournament title


PALMYRA, Mo. — Someone might just be fibbin’.

Nikos Connaway, an explosive guard for the Van-Far boys basketball team, is one of the most exciting players in Northeast Missouri.

That, however, doesn’t guarantee the 5-foot-10 junior will always tell the truth.

Connaway split Palmyra’s late-game defense to drive the heart of the lane and lofted what turned out to be a game-winning field goal that caromed off the backboard and plopped through the hoop.

Connaway’s shot, which came with 10 seconds to play, propelled Van-Far to a 35-34 victory over Palmyra in the championship game of the 80th Tony Lenzini Tournament.

Was the bank part of that shot planned?

“Yeah, we can go with that,” said Connaway, a stylish southpaw who scored a game-high 18 points, including all 12 of his club’s total in the second half.

When Van-Far coach Pat Connaway heard what his star guard, who also happens to be his son, had said, he rolled his eyes and shook his head.

“He’s lying,” Pat Connaway said. “He normally drops that floater through the front of the basket. I’m just thankful that brick he shot went in.”

Although Nikos Connaway’s unintended bank shot will be remembered as the game-winner, there were still a few anxious moments in those 10 seconds that followed. The two teams traded turnovers, with Palmyra winding up with one final opportunity with 2.2 seconds left, but the Panthers were unable to make an inbounds play work near the basket.

“Give Van-Far credit — they played well,” said Palmyra junior forward Bear Bock, who led Palmyra with 16 points and a game-best 10 rebounds. “We were able to make a couple of runs, but couldn’t get it done. We didn’t communicate out there like we should have.”

Palmyra (13-5) had been seeking its 18th Lenzini championship and first since 1999, but Van-Far ruined that plan with a deliberate approach on offense.

“Our goal is to hold teams to 45 points or under,” Pat Connaway said. “We just don’t have the offensive firepower for a high-scoring game. We knew Palmyra would make a run, and we just wanted our kids to keep their composure. I’m just glad the game wasn’t another minute long.”

Palmyra held three one-point leads in the fourth quarter, but missed the front end of three 1-and-1 situations down the stretch. The only points the Panthers scored in the last 4 1/2 minutes came on a field goal by Bock with 1:48 to play.

“The only people who believed we could win this game were our family, friends and those in our locker room,” Nikos Connaway said.

Senior forward Tyler Banta was Palmyra’s other double-figure scorer with 11 points. He added six rebounds to help Palmyra to a 26-16 advantage on the boards.

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