Van Alstyne Shrugs Off Shaky Start to Advance Past Mount Vernon

Brian GossetStaff Writer

WILLS POINT - Another day of canceled games were pushed back to the weekend and it seemed as if it was taking its toll on both teams.

Once Van Alstyne got rolling, the Panthers couldn’t be stopped – defeating Mount Vernon 65-37 Saturday night at Wills Point High School for their first area-round title in 12 years.

No. 11 Van Alstyne (25-8) will take on district foe Tom Bean (17-12), Tuesday 7 p.m. at Denison High School (4200 North State Hwy 91, Denison) in the Class 3A Region II Quarterfinals. The Panthers swept the season series by a score of 138-92.

The Panthers missed their first seven shots, including four from deep, but only found themselves down 10-8 after the first quarter. The Tigers’ Hylke Talsma hit a free throw for the game’s first point at the 5:40 mark while Van Alstyne didn’t score until Jared McMakin’s free throw with 2:32 left in the opening frame.

“We were getting good looks, just weren’t hitting them,” VA coach Russell Best said. “Sometimes you make them, sometimes you don’t.”

Isaiah Boling’s 3-point bucket knotted the score at 5-5 – the Panthers’ first basket with 2:03 in the quarter. Their struggles flowed over to the second quarter, trailing by as much as 17-9 before reeling off an 18-2 run to end the first half, leading 27-19. Michael Hensley hit all six free-throw attempts as the Panthers went 10-of-12 from the charity stripe, despite going 7-of-26 from the field.

“Our defense kept us in it for a long time. Even though we had the slow start, we were in it the whole time, then we got some easy buckets and forced turnovers and that kind of got us going,” Best said.

Van Alstyne came out of halftime firing, but kept it inside, going 6-of-11 from inside the arc and 9-of-17 overall in the third to gain a 20-point lead. From there, it was too much for the Tigers (21-11).

The Panthers last appeared in the regional quarterfinals during the 2002-03 season, according to AthleticsDepartment.com.

McMakin got into early foul trouble, but still managed to score a team-high 12 points. Boling had 10 and four assists while Hensley finished with 10 and eight rebounds. The Panthers are riding a 15-game winning streak.

“We got good minutes from the bench in the first half. Hensley came in and was big on the boards and made a lot of hustle plays and made his free throws,” Best said.

Van Alstyne is getting use to delays. The Panthers’ bi-district game with Alba-Golden was postponed twice before the two finally played. Best has never experienced this during his playoff coaching career, but once had to play four district games in a week due to inclement weather.

“Obviously with no school, we can’t practice and it changes the way we prepare. Like I told the kids before, it’s all part of the trials you have to go through and once we got here, none of that mattered, we just played ball,” Best said.

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Van Alstyne 8 19 23 15 – 65

Mt. Vernon 10 9 11 7 – 37

VA: McMakin 12, Hensley 10, Boling 10, Joey Jackson 8, Colin McCaskill 7, Jake Hillebrenner 5, Bailey Thorpe 4, Harrison Awe 4, Seth Caraway 3; Rebounds 39 (Hensley 8, McCaskill 6, McMakin 6); Assists 12 (Awe 4, Boling 4); Steals 11 (Awe 3, Boling 3); Blocks 3 (McCaskill 2)

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Twitter @Gosset41

bcg53@nau.edu