PLANO – The early struggles for the Panthers haven’t been totally forgotten, as the way Van Alstyne is playing now is a result of how he has solved those issues.
Ten games into the season, VA had equaled last year’s total loss count at seven and the fact that he moved up to Class 4A didn’t help build confidence for what was to come.
“It was a totally new group. Each team is essentially a new group, ”said Panthers head coach Russell Best. “We had a few tight losses at the start. It wasn’t like we were playing badly.
Since mid-December Van Alstyne has been pretty much unbeatable and has transformed into the team he thought he was at the start of the year.
“They continued to compete and improve on each other,” Best said. “We share the ball very well together. It shows their leaders how things went.
The Panthers extended their winning streak to 12 in a streak where they won 16 of 17 games to secure a 99-50 victory over Uplift Summit in a Class 4A Region II bi-district contest at Plano East.
Van Alstyne (19-8) will face Dallas Lincoln or Ferris in the zonal round.
JJ Boling had 23 points, nine rebounds and four assists, Carson Brown had 20 points, eight assists, five rebounds and four steals, Nathan Henley had 13 points and Kade Ramer grabbed 11 rebounds for the Panthers, who are in the second round. for the seventh time in eight seasons.
Devyn Brennan scored 15 points, Kameron Boyse added 14 points and Jayden Lloyd and Cameron Jamerson each finished with eight points for Uplift Summit, a charter school in Arlington.
Van Alstyne didn’t look like a team that had nine days off. All but one of the Panthers ranked in the scoring column combining out of 14 three points, nine in the first half.
Each quarter saw them produce at least 21 points – including a solid 35 in the second – and Van Alstyne forced 14 turnovers in the first half, almost all of them eventually completing the scoreboard.
“We came back to the gym for a few days,” Best said. “We wanted to play the best we could.”
That effort nearly hit triple digits, with VA reserves looking as good as the first unit. They came with 21 points in the fourth, including buckets from Sean Wilson and Dylan Geller to put the Panthers on the precipice of the century. But Brennan got the entry pass for Summit and dribbled the final 13 seconds, perhaps the only drama in a game with a 34 point margin at halftime.
Van Alstyne opened the third quarter with a Henley practice, then punched a three-pointer before Boling dropped one. It was his last points of the night – he had 20 in the first half – and pushed the VA advantage to 64-22.
By the end of the third quarter, the Panthers were up 78-35.
Considering the final score, Van Alstyne got off to a slow start. He had just five points in the middle of the first quarter and only had an 8-5 lead after Brennan hit a three-runner with 2:47 left in the frame.
An 11-0 run followed which was booked by three from Brown and Blake Skipworth with Boling hitting one down the middle. Boling’s float in the dying seconds gave the Panthers a 21-8 advantage.
Boling led the charge in the second quarter, resulting in a 56-22 lead at the break. The junior scored 13 points in that streak, including nine in the final two minutes of halftime – punctuated by a three to five second to go – in a 13-1 final set.
Henley had eight points in the stanza, including a pair of three pointers, and Brown connected two more times from beyond the arc as part of the four threes of the second half.
Boyce and Brennan did their best to try to keep the Skyhawks away, but their deficit grew to 20 points midway through the quarter and only continued to swell the rest of the time.
Class 4A Region II
Van Alstyne 99
Uplift 50 Summit