HOWE — The Van Alstyne boys gave Howe their biggest challenge yet as they snatched a win from the Bulldogs, 92-62, in a district match up on Tuesday, Jan. 9 at Howe High School. This loss follows Howe’s hard-earned road win over Farmersville, 58-55, on Friday, Jan. 5.

The Panthers set the tone early, ripping off three shots from behind the arch. Van Alstyne’s Tyler Sperry drew first blood with a deep three, followed by two more 3-pointers from Noah Bolin to put Van Alstyne in the lead, 9-0, in the opening minutes. Howe struggled to find their offensive footing in the first quarter, being held to 10 total points. Van Alstyne finished the quarter with 21 points, playing physical and opening up scoring with swift ball movement.

Howe would start putting things together at the start of the second quarter, closing the score within 7 points after ripping off some relatively unanswered shots to put the score at 25-18. Van Alstyne had enough of that after a quick time out by Van Alstyne head coach Russell Best. The Panthers couldn’t be denied the basket as they went on an offensive tear for the rest of the quarter, capped off by a Samuel Tormos buzzer beater to put the Panthers up 45-27 at half time.

“Our kids came in, had a quick start, then kind of fell into a lull towards the end of the first half,” Coach Best said of the Panthers’ start. “But (they) picked it back up in the second half, energy level was good, they played hard and (I) was real proud of them for getting this win.”

In the third quarter, the Bulldogs also picked up their offensive energy, picking up the pace and being able to out hustle the Panthers for most of the quarter. Both Ty Harvey and James Cowin scored 7 points, contributing to the team’s 22 point surge. Despite the offensive turn around, it was too little too late for the Bulldogs. Van Alstyne scored 26 points of their own — only padding their lead — ending the quarter with a 71-49 advantage.

Van Alstyne had winded the Bulldogs by the fourth quarter, as Howe only mustered up 13 points compared to Van Alstyne’s 21 points scored in the quarter. The Panthers would put in the subs and wait out the minutes until the final buzzer sounded their win.

“We never like to lose,” Howe head coach Eric Johns said after the game. “I was saying before the game that they (Van Alstyne) are the best team in our district, and that’s the level we have to rise to, to be a competitive playoff team. You know, we have a great team, but to win these types of games, that’s the intensity we have to play at all the time.”

Coach Johns spoke of the up-and-down offensive outing. “We definitely had sparks of it, but then we’d fall into back to that lack of intensity and they’d score 6-8 points and we’re watching, that’s when it got away from us,” he said. “We had nothing to lose and everything to win. We came in 3-0 in district, excited to play the best team, and we were excited for the challenge… we will play them again in three weeks, we will work, and we will get better.”

The Panthers had some impressive performances on the evening. Sperry finished with 24 points, Tormos had a staggering 36 points, and Boling clocked 13 points.

Harvey had 15 points on the night for Howe, followed by a 12 point game by Cowin.

The Bulldogs move to 3-1 in district, as they will hope to get back on track with a win against Leonard on Tuesday, Jan. 16. The win puts Van Alstyne at to 4-0 in district, as the Panthers will try to remain undefeated against Commerce on Tuesday, Jan. 16.