Van Alstyne 55, Leonard 46

The Van Alstyne Panthers kept their district 10-3A record spotless with a 55-46 win at Leonard on Jan. 13. The victory was coach Russell Best’s 200th for his career and number 106 as head coach of the Panthers.

It was obvious from the start that the Tigers wanted to slow the pace of the game. They got the tempo they wanted, but not the end results as the Panthers bumped their district record to 4-0.

Van Alstyne traveled to Commerce on Jan. 17 to face the 4-0 Tigers.

Junior Noah Boling had 19 points to lead the Panther offense and senior Michael Hensley Jr added 17. This was Hensley’s sixth consecutive, double-digit scoring game, and he also collected 11 rebounds for the double-double. Sophomore Tyler Sperry chipped in nine points and senior Trevor Roberts had six.

Leonard senior Nathan Anderson led the game with 24 points, half of those coming in the fourth quarter.

Anderson had a pair of shots from beyond the arc to close out the first quarter. That cut a seven point Van Alstyne lead down to just one at the end of the opening eight minutes. Boling had two baskets in the period, one coming after he jumped the passing lane for a steal and layup that gave the visitors an 11-3 lead. Roberts rolled in a shot, after senior Landon Pardee had plucked a defensive rebound, hustled down the court and fed Roberts for the easy deuce.

Hensley, who was held scoreless in the first period, scored seven points in the second, dropping in a 3-pointer to push the Panther lead back to seven. Senior Brex Schur scored five points and Anderson two, in the closing minutes of the half. Pardee got another assist on a feed to Boling and Boling’s steal and basket put the visitors up, 25-20 at the half.

After Boling and senor De’Angelo Alexander had scored to open the second half, The Tigers kept battling back. A three-point play by Hensley and Sperry’s floater that fell in, kept the Panthers up by five midway through the third. Alexander found Hensley who scored on the dive cit down the lane to push the Panther lead to seven. A Hensley 3-pointer gave Van Alstyne a 43-33 lead heading into the final period.

Back-to-back scores by Boling gave the Panthers their biggest lead of the night, 50-39.

Although his best work will not show up in the final stats, Alexander played a key role in the Panther win. Alexander had six rebounds, four blocks and a couple of defensive stops at key moments of the game.

Anderson threw in a pair of 3-pointers in the last four minutes of the game, but a Sperry baskets and free throw makes by Hensley and Boling held off the Tigers for Van Alstyne’s 14th win of the season. Senior Mike McCullough and junior Julian Wilson missed their second consecutive game with injuries.

Van Alstyne hosts Lone Oak on Jan. 20 to complete the first round of league play.