Van Alstyne 63, Commerce 46

The Commerce Tigers paid a late-season visit to Van Alstyne on Feb. 10, riding a 15-game winning streak and ranked 14th among Class 3-A boys’ basketball teams by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.

That impressed the Panthers for about the first 12 minutes of this crucial District 10-3A senior-night battle.

After Commerce had taken a 25-17 lead midway through the second quarter, Panther coach Russell Best took a timeout. From that point on Van Alstyne outscored the Tigers 46-21 on their way to a 63-46 win, and a share of the top spot in the league.

“I think we were a little nervous couming out, this being senior night and all, but coach took that timeout and told us to just play our game.” Van Alstyne senior Michael Hensley Jr. said.

Hensley definitely played his game, scoring 20 points and gathering eight rebounds. His aggressive play in the paint got Commerce’s standout freshman Day Day Hall in foul trouble, forcing him to miss a key stretch in the third quarter.

“He (Hall) killed us on the boards when we played them earlier and we wanted to make him work, and it paid off,” Hensley said.

Hall opened the game for the Tigers on an offensive roll, scoring 10 of the team’s 16 first-quarter points.

Hensely got off to a nice start as well, scoring the first three Panther baskets, the last coming after a ball fake moved his defender away from the hoop. Dodge Brown, a sophomore sharpshooter, drained a 3-pointer to open the second quarter for Commerce.

Van Alstyne junior Noah Boling, taking a feed from senior De’Angelo Alexander, sent in a 3-ball to answer. Boling finished with 13 points in the contest.

Brown, a coach’s kid who grew up in the gym, hurt the Panthers with his long-distance shooting in the first game between these two rivals. A good game plan and nice defensive work by the Panther’s zone defense took away that part of the Tiger’s game.

Brown scored just eight points in the rematch, none in the second half.

“We just wanted to keep in contact with him, and not let him get open looks,” Best said.

Brown sent in a 3-ball from the 28-foot line for the Tigers final points of the first half. Van Alstyne ended the first half as senior Landon Pardee took a feed from Alexander and dropped in the easy deuce. Pardee scored 11 points in the game, all in the first half.

Alexander drew a Dennis Rodman reference from coach Best after the game, although not many of today’s fans would be familiar with the Worm’s work. Some in the crowd remember Rodman’s play at South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas.

The Panther defense, and the crowd, increased its intensity in the second half, holding Commerce to single-digit scoring in both the third and fourth quarters.

Boling sent in a corner 3-ball to open the second half for Van Alstyne, and then we saw the Tyler Sperry show. The sophomore guard scored eight consecutive points, getting a pair of 3-pointers, and his first trey gave the Panthers a 39-37 lead.

Commerce senior Neely Smith scored to tie the game, leading to a Van Alstyne timeout. The Panthers went on a 14-0 run following Smith’s basket, started by the rebound at the defensive end by Hensley. Taking it down court, Hensley’s assist to Boling got the offense off to the races.

Another 3-pointer by Sperry, and a cross-court, skip-pass by Pardee that led to a foul on Hensley, ended the third quarter with Van Alstyne on top, 46-39.

In the first four minutes of the final frame, Hensley owned the Tigers. His 3-pointer from the top of the arc started a 9-0 run, all by the senior post.

Hall, sidelined with foul problems for most ot the second half, came back to score the final five points of the game for Commerce. Alexander scored a pair of baskets for the Panthers, usually capping a long possession straight outta Hoosiers.

Baskets by Hensley and Sperry capped the night, Hensley getting the dime on Sperry’s bucket,sealing Van Alstyne’s 17-point win. It was win number 20 for the season, the fourth consecutive 20 win campaign for the Panthers.

There was no postseason talk from coach Best after the game.

“We still have to go down to Lone Oak and take care of business,” Best said.

They took care of business in a big way on senior night as Alexander, Hensley, Pardee, Mason Adams, Mike McCullough, Jimmy Head, Luke Hundt and Trevor Roberts played their final home game for the Panthers.

Sub Varsity Notes: The Van Alstyne basketball program made it a 3-0 sweep over Commerce, as both the freshman and junior varsity team’s notched wins.

Zach Smith scored 12 points and Drelin Davis had 10 in the freshman game.

Coach Brent Loganbill’s team will take a 9-2 record to Lone Oak.

The junior varsity continued its unbeaten run through district play, beating the Tigers 57-42. This after a 1-point win earlier in the season at Commerce.

Sam Tormos scored in every period, finishing with 23 points to lead the Panthers. C.J. Leutuyler Jr had 12.

JV coach Jeff Green wants to beat coach Taylor Penn’s record with a win at Lone Oak.