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Some slight resistance Panthers open playoffs with a blowout win



PLANO — The early struggles for the Panthers haven’t been totally forgotten, because the way Van Alstyne is playing now is a result of how it worked through those issues.

Ten games into the season VA had matched its total number of losses from last year at seven and the fact it had moved up to Class 4A didn’t help foster confidence for what was ahead.

“This was a totally new group. Every team is basically a new group,” Panthers head coach Russell Best said. “We had some close losses early. It wasn’t like we were playing terrible.”

Since the middle of December, Van Alstyne has been almost unbeatable and transformed into the team it thought it was at the beginning of the year.

“They have continued to compete and make each other better,” Best said. “We share the ball together really well. It speaks to their leadership how things have gone.”

The Panthers extended their winning streak to 12 as part of a stretch where they have won 16 of 17 games as they rolled to a 99-50 victory against Uplift Summit in a Class 4A Region II bi-district contest at Plano East.

Van Alstyne (19-8) will face either Dallas Lincoln or Ferris in the area round.

J.J. Boling had 23 points, nine rebounds and four assists, Carson Brown totaled 20 points, eight assists, five rebounds and four steals, Nathan Henley scored 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 Panther got in the scoring column as they combined on 14 three-pointers, nine in the first half.

Every quarter saw them produce at least 21 points — including a robust 35 in the second — and Van Alstyne forced 14 turnovers in the first half with almost all of them eventually padding the scoreboard.

“We got back in the gym for a few days,” Best said. “We wanted to play the best we could.”

That effort nearly got to triple digits with VA’s reserves looking just as good as the first unit. They came up with 21 points in the fourth, including buckets by Sean Wilson and Dylan Geller to put the Panthers on the precipice of the century mark. But Brennan got the inbounds pass for Summit and dribbled out the final 13 seconds, perhaps the only drama in a game that was a 34-point margin at half-time.

Van Alstyne opened the third quarter with a Henley drive and then he drilled a three-pointer before Boling knocked one down. It was his final points of the night — he had 20 in the first half — and pushed VA’s 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. It only had five points by the middle of the first quarter and held just an 8-5 lead after Brennan hit a three-pointer with 2:47 left in the frame.

An 11-0 run followed which was bookended by threes from Brown and Blake Skipworth with Boling hitting one in the middle. Boling’s floater in the final seconds gave the Panthers a 21-8 advantage.

Boling led the charge in the second quarter which produced a 56-22 lead at the break. The junior scored 13 points in that stretch, including nine in the final two minutes of the half — punctuated by a three with five seconds left — as part of a closing 13-1 run.

Henley had eight points in the stanza, including a pair of three-pointers, and Brown connected twice more from beyond the arc as part of the sophomore’s four threes in the first half.

Boyce and Brennan did their best to try and keep the Skyhawks in it but their deficit got to 20 points by the middle of the quarter and only continued to balloon the rest of the way.