In front of a raucous, white-out crowd that filled the home stands at Panther Gym on Jan. 24, the Panthers handed Sunnyvale its first District 12-2A loss, whipping the Raiders 61-50.
Sophomore guard Jake Hillebrenner got a steal on the opening tip and raced in for the layup, giving Van Alstyne a lead it never surrendered in the contest. Back-to-back steals by Zach Davis, leading to feeds to Isaiah Boling for baskets, forced a Sunnyvale timeout with the Panthers on top, 16-3.
After a couple of misses in the first quarter from 3-point range, Colin McCaskill stepped into a 3-ball at the top of the arc to start the second quarter scoring. McCaskill finished with 17 points and he had to be in double-digits in rebounds as well.
Jared McMakin followed McCaskill’s 3-pointer, going one better as he was fouled on his make, turning that into a rare, four-point effort.
McCaskill dropped in his second 3-pointer of the night late in the first quarter, and after a Harrison Awe 3-pointer the crowd was going wild.
"We really fed off of that energy, it was as loud as I’ve ever heard it." Panther guard Bailey Thorpe said after the game.
Van Alstyne held a 36-22 lead at the half.
The Panthers went 3-for-4 at the free-throw line and another Hillebrenner basket got them off to a 5-0 start in the second half, pushing their lead to 19-points.
Sunnyvale made a brief run to cut into that lead, forcing a Van Alstyne timeout.
McMakin drained a 3- ball coming out of the timeout and a basket by Awe gave the Panthers a 48-35 lead going into the final frame.
The Raiders got a 3-ball from Lawson Ayo to open the fourth period and after Dillon Paschall had scored from inside the paint, momentum was about to swing to the visitors side. A McCaskill 3-ball and another from Zach Davis stopped that surge, but the Raiders would not go quietly into the night.
Back-to-back baskets by Josh Quinn and another Paschall basket got the Van Alstyne lead down to single-digits and with three minutes left, the Panthers took a timeout to regroup. Coming out of the break, Boling dropped a no-look pass to Will Jones for a basket, but Sunnyvale came roaring back.
Three-pointers by Demitrius Gray and Ayo got the visiting stands all excited as the Raiders had the lead down to just six with under two minutes left in the contest. Ayo’s 3-pointer turned out to be the final points of the night for Sunnyvale as the Van Alstyne defense put the clamps on the Raider attack.
After a Thorpe basket, McCaskill split on a pair from the free-throw line and Davis made two to close out the big win.
We asked Van Alstyne coach Russell Best to compare his team’s performance in this game to their earlier two meetings.
"We just played our game better tonight, our defense was a lot better, and our offense was back on track," Best said.
Van Alstyne travels to Leonard Friday as league play continues.
Sunnyvale 7 15 13 15 — 50
Van Alstyne 16 20 12 13 — 61
VA: Colin McCaskill 17, Jake Hillebrenner 10, Jared McMakin 9, Zach Davis 8, Isaiah Boling 8, Harrison Awe 5, Will Jones 2, Bailey Thorpe 2.
Sub-Varsity Notes: Despite a second-half comeback attempt the Van Alstyne junior varsity dropped a 58-38 decision to Sunnyvale. Anthony Novillo dropped in a pair of 3-pointers in the second half to help spark the rally. Mike Case scored seven points in the first half and finished with 11 to lead the Van Alstyne effort. Novillo finished with eight points.
Van Alstyne 68, Farmersville 46
The Panthers broke open a six-point game at the half and cruised to a 68-46 win over Farmersville on Jan. 28.
Bailey Thorpe bounced back from a two-point performance in the prior game to score 21 in leading the Panther attack. Zach Davis added 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the 22-point win. Seth Caraway scored 12 points in the Panthers win. Isaiah Boling added five points to go along with his six assists and two steals.
Van Alstyne trailed after the first quarter as Farmersville got off to a quick start. The Farmers couldn’t keep pace with the Panthers’ in the second period as the visitors went on a 16-8 run.
The win keeps Van Alstyne one game behind Sunnyvale in the District 12-2A chase as the Raiders blasted Leonard, 72-43, to rebound from their loss at VA. Gunter defeated Caddo Mills, and the Tigers are one game behind the Panthers.
Van Alstyne 14 16 21 17 — 68
Farmersville 16 8 11 11 — 46
VA:(22-3)(7-2) Bailey Thorpe 21, Zach Davis 13, Seth Caraway 12, Will Jones 6, Isaiah Boling 5, Colin McCaskill 4, Harrison Awe 4, Joey Jackson 2,Denny Graham 1.