Humbled -- and steamed -- by the defeat it took to Oneida on its own home floor Feb. 2, the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill boys basketball team resolved to make things right before the onset of the Section III Class A playoffs.
Three days after the Oneida defeat, the Red Devils went to Whitesboro and gained some payback on the Warriors in an impressive 69-55 victory.
Back on Jan. 3, Whitesboro had used hot perimeter shooting to beat the Red Devils 78-73, snapping a 10-game win streak and spoiling head coach Al Knapp's first attempt at getting his 500th career win (it came against Oneida five days later).
Remembering that defeat, VVS came to Whitesboro and dominated inside, helped in no small part by early fouls that kept Warrior center T.J. Abounater on the bench for must of the first half.
Without Abounater to worry about, the Red Devils owned the paint, especially in the second quarter as it contained Whitesboro and built a lead as large as 10 before going to the locker room with a 33-26 advantage.
Steadily, VVS built the margin to as much as 16 in the fourth quarter, helped in no small part by its aggressive approach that led to fouls and trips to the line. In all, the Red Devils took 34 free throws, making 23 of them.
Evan Croll personified this approach, earning 11 of his game-high 23 points from the line, and adding eight rebounds and four assists.
Just on inside work, Adam Kemp nearly had a triple-double, earning 10 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks. Zach Jensen and Derek Smith also reached double figures, with 12 points apiece, as Jensen added eight rebounds. Joe Bushey led Whitesboro with 17 points.
VVS improved its record to 15-3 and will play Camden Thursday night.