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Panthers Take Second Place on Big Stage

Leader Photos by Jack Walker  The Panthers accept the team trophy presentation for second place in bracket play at the Allen Holiday TournamentBuy Photo
Leader Photos by Jack Walker The Panthers accept the team trophy presentation for second place in bracket play at the Allen Holiday Tournament
Leader Photos by Jack Walker  Jared McMakin- All-tournament trophy presentationBuy Photo
Leader Photos by Jack Walker Jared McMakin- All-tournament trophy presentation
Leader Photos by Jack Walker  Bailey Thorpe drives to the basketBuy Photo
Leader Photos by Jack Walker Bailey Thorpe drives to the basket
Leader Photos by Jack Walker  Jared McMakin drives the lane.Buy Photo
Leader Photos by Jack Walker Jared McMakin drives the lane.

The Van Alstyne Panthers put together a strong run on a big tournament stage at the Allen Holiday Tournament over the Dec. 27 weekend with a run at the championship.

Van Alstyne could not pull off an improbable comeback for a second consecutive night, however, falling to District 12-2A foe Sunnyvale, 43-37, in the finals of the Dickey’s Barbecue Bracket of the Allen Holiday Tournament on Saturday.

Two first quarter steals by Jared McMakin and a pair of 3-point bombs from Isaiah Boling led the way early in the contest. Boling’s two bombs and a basket by Bailey Thorpe got the Panthers off to a 9-5 lead before Sunnyvale rallied. A basket by Casey Crenshaw and Josh Quinn’s 3-point shot at the buzzer gave Sunnyvale a 10-9 lead at the end of the first period.

The Raiders got off to the hot start in the second quarter, scoring on another 3-ball by Quinn and a paint shot by senior Dillon Paschall, forcing a Van Alstyne timeout.

Boling came out of the break scoring with his third 3-pointer of the night, while Zach Davis dialed up a 3-ball from the top of the arc for the Panthers. They could not cut into the Raider lead, however, as Paschall was doing his damage inside the paint.

With his team trailing 23-17, Boling continued playing that string music, dropping in his fourth long-distance bomb to cut the lead to three at intermission.

Sunnyvale outscored the Panthers 8-2 in the third quarter to take a nine point lead to the final period.

Two baskets by McMakin got Van Alstyne back on track and a rebound putback by Will Jones made it a 33-28 game with just under five minutes left in the game.

Sunnyvale bumped the lead back to nine before Thorpe sent in a 3-pointer. Two makes from the free-throw line by Boling cut the lead to five.

Another Paschall basket and a Quinn drive down the lane kept the Raiders on top.

A free-throw make by Thorpe and Colin McCaskill’s trey from the top of the circle cut the lead down to just two. With time running down, Van Alstyne had to foul as the Raiders were intent on running out the clock and not looking to score.

The Panthers could not get a big rebound when Quinn missed the front end of a one-and-one trip to the charity stripe but Paschall’s rebound spoiled the Panthers’ comeback bid.

Van Alstyne captured the second-place trophy, and McMakin was named to the All-tournament team.

Van Alstyne 54, Franklin 51

Last year, the Franklin Lions got off to a 27-0 first-quarter start against Van Alstyne on their way to a 66-32 win in the Sherman Holiday Tournament.

As Panther coach Russell Best said, “It’s not the same team, but if feels good to get the win after last season.”

The Panthers did just that, beating the Lions 54-51 on Friday in Allen.

Franklin, coming into the tourney ranked ninth by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, had pounded its opponents in pool play on Thursday and, keyed by the play of Mike Witherspoon and Grant Hughes, were up 39-32 at the start of the fourth quarter in their game against the Panthers.

A 3-pointer by Hughes, his third of the game, and Witherspoon’s steal and bucket gave Franklin a 44-32 lead and forced a Van Alstyne time out.

Last year, some wag wrote that this young Panther team’s biggest challenge was finding a way to finish games. Apparently they have found that way as they outscored the Lions 18-5 over the next six minutes to come away with the win.

A Bailey Thorpe trey got the run started, and after the team went 7-of-8 from the free-throw line, Harrison Awe buried a 3-ball that cut the Lion lead to three and gave the Panthers that all-important “Mo.”

After Colin McCaskill had gone to the floor to wrestle the ball away, Thorpe dropped in a free throw that cut the lead to one. After another defensive stop, Isaiah Boling dropped a no-look dime on Zach Davis and his easy basket gave Van Alstyne its first lead since early in the second quarter.

Witherspoon drove the lane on Franklin’s next trip and was called for an offensive foul, turning the ball over with just under 20 seconds left.

Not content to stall the ball, the Panthers rushed the ball down-court. A Davis feed to McMakin for a basket bumped the VA lead to 52-49.

Witherspoon scored with time running down, while Davis locked up the win with two from the free-throw line for some sweet payback.

Van Alstyne 74, New Summerfield 64

The New Summerfield Hornets are a Class 1A school just east of Jackson in the piney woods of East Texas.

They brought just eight players to the Allen Tournament and they hung tough with the Panthers for the first 12 minutes of Thursday’s second game before losing, 74-64.

Van Alstyne was coming off a big win over Princeton earlier that day and the Hornets were playing their tournament opener.

After two free throw makes by Colin McCaskill had tied the game at 12-all, the Hornets went on a 10-5 run to take a 22-17 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Three straight baskets by McCaskill got the lead back to two, and a pair of free throws by Isaiah Boling deadlocked the game at 25-25.

New Summerfield went into a little four-corners game midway through the second period, but a Boling 3-ball gave the Panthers a lead they never relinquished with three minutes left in the quarter.

Baskets by Bailey Thorpe and Jake Hillebrenner plus two more from Boling bumped the lead to five at the break.

It was 3-pointer time in the third quarter, and the Panthers had four makes from beyond the arc to help stretch the lead to 61-50 at the end of the period.

The Hornets went on a run from 3-point range to start the final period. Case Wilkerson, who led the Hornets with 19 points, scored eight points early to get the lead down to three.

A corner trey by Hillebrenner stopped that run. After Boling had made two from the free-throw line, a basket by McCaskill got the lead back to seven.

Four-for-four at the free-throw line, two each by Zach Davis and Jared McMakin, closed out the contest.

Van Alstyne 67, Princeton 57

On Nov. 22, these two teams met in Van Alstyne and the home Panthers came away with a 58-56 win.

They met in a rematch on Thursday in opening round action of the Allen Tournament.

Despite having success from beyond the arc in the first half, Van Alstyne was up by just two at the half. The Panthers dropped in seven bombs from long-distance in the first half, three by Zach Davis, as they led 33-31 at the break.

Davis opened the third quarter scoring with another trey, and a Bailey Thorpe 3 closed it out as Van Asltyne led 51-45 going to the fourth quarter.

Baskets by Jared McMakin and Will Jones, plus a 3 from the top of the key by Colin McCaskill, punched the lead to 10 with 5:30 left in the game. Dennis Lockman scored two buckets from inside the paint then swished a 3 from the corner to cut into the Van Alstyne lead.

With just over two minutes left, Van Alstyne was money from the charity stripe, making five-of-six. A basket by Thorpe closed out the contest with the right Panthers up by 10.

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