Panthers win the prestigious Whataburger Tourney

By Griff Servati
For the Van Alstyne Leader
Coach Phil Walker,  Zach Thomas, Gavin Montgomery, Carson Brown, JJ Boling, Nic Castillo, Blake Skipworth, Dylan Geller, Jackson Allen, Sean WilsonKade Ramer and Coach Rusell Best.

The winter holidays give students a break from school, but after the six-day moratorium on team activities, the state buzzes with holiday basketball tournaments. For over six decades, the Whataburger Tournament has been a premier spotlight on some of the best teams in the state. The Panther's recent success garnered an invitation to compete at this invitational tournament.

The Panthers would take advantage of the opportunity by capturing the championship trophy in their first opportunity. The road to the title would not be easy, picking up wins over two reigning state champions.

The team faced San Antonio Cole in the semi-finals, the 2021 3A defending state champion. Cole is the public high school for Fort Sam Houston Army base. The Panthers picked up the victory with a 75-67, withstanding a 37 point performance from the Cougars Trey Blackmore. The Panthers outscored the Cougars in three of the four quarters and at one point held a 13 point lead closing out the third quarter. The Panthers were led in scoring by Carson Brown with 22pts, Blake Skipworth 16 pts, and JJ Boling 14 pts.

The Panthers faced off with the defending 4A state champion Argyle Eagles in the finals. The Panthers had already faced the Eagles in a home contest and had earned a late-game victory. Since graduation, the Eagles are not the same team as a year ago but came into the match ranked in the coaches' poll as the 8th ranked team.

MVP JJ Boling, Kade Ramer, Blake Skipworth, Carson Brown.

You know you are a good team when you can win games despite the style of play. The win over Cole was a fast-paced, high-scoring game compared to the game with Argyle. Both teams scoring combined did not cover what the Panthers scored in the semi-finals. The Panthers would pull out a 35-32.

The Panthers would lead much of the contest and had a nine-point lead in the second quarter. But the Eagles defense would hold the high-scoring offense of the Panthers to only four points in the third quarter. The Eagles would take a three-point lead early in the fourth quarter, their only lead in the game. The game would come down to operating under pressure and free throws, and the Panthers would prove to be worthy. With seconds on the clock, J.J. Boling would hit two clutch free throws to secure the win.

Scoring for the Panthers were: JJ Boling 20 pts, Carson Brown 8 pts, Kade Ramer 4 pts, and Blake Skipworth 3pts.

Four Panthers were selected to the All-Tournament team for their outstanding play: Carson Brown, Blake Skipworth, Kade Ramer, and JJ Boling was awarded the Most Valuable Player.

Coach Russell Best said this about his team's play, "The tournament was a very competitive field. The players had to have tremendous focus and put together four good games. They were able to do that and win the tournament. I'm proud of their effort and commitment."