Van Alstyne unable to keep up with Anna in the second half

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Van Alstyne's Lanie Thorpe passes around Anna's Valajah  Jackson during District 9-4A action at Van Alstyne.

VAN ALSTYNE — The chaos on either end of the court had the Van Alstyne Lady Panthers trying to keep up whether they had the ball or not.

And after hanging tough for a half against Anna’s press as well as the Lady Coyotes’ up-tempo offense, VA struggled in both areas during the third quarter and it proved to be the difference in the Lady Panthers’ 67-60 loss in District 9-4A action.

“We were flat in the third quarter again for whatever reason,” Van Alstyne head coach Tyler Dyer said. “Anna played well. We gave up too many offensive rebounds. There were about three plays in the fourth quarter when it felt like it wasn’t our night.”

Bailey Henderson had 18 points, 10 rebounds and four steals, Callie Blankenship scored 13 points and Kaelyn Miller chipped in eight points and six steals for Van Alstyne (14-10, 2-2), which closes out the first half of district play at Melissa on Tuesday and then by hosting Celina on Friday.

The Lady Panthers dropped into a three-way tie for third place with Melissa and Aubrey and a game behind Celina.

“We’ve got to have good practices throughout the week and be ready to play,” Dyer said. “Win the next two and you’re still fine.”

Katie Johnson scored 25 points, Saniya Myer had 17 points and Valajah Jackson totaled 10 points and 14 rebounds for Anna (15-11, 2-3), which hosts Aubrey on Tuesday.

The Lady Coyotes have already matched their district win total from a year ago, when they had just six overall victories, in their first season under Daniel Johnson after his successful four-year run at Collinsville.

Speeding things up was the plan from the start, but it really came together for Anna in the third quarter. The Lady Coyotes turned a tie game into a 14-point advantage in that eight-minute stretch.

Anna scored to open the second half and never trailed again. It used a 14-2 run that was capped by three straight layups, the last a three-point play, to put Van Alstyne into a 50-36 hole with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter. The Lady Panthers’ faced that deficit thanks to 10 turnovers in the period and a stretch of nearly five minutes where they produced just two points.

But Van Alstyne managed to get the margin within single digits several times in the fourth quarter and it was a 60-55 margin when Henderson hit a three, Anna turned the ball over and Henderson scored on a putback with 1:24 left.

“After everything that happened and you look up and go — ‘how are we only down five?’” Dyer said.

IV Jackson and Blankenship traded a pair of free throws so it was back to a five-point gap with 1:10 to go. It was as close as Van Alstyne could get. Jackson scored underneath on the ensuing possession, the Lady Panthers missed two shots and then Johnson made both free throws with 21 seconds on the clock.

A late push by Anna squared the score at 32 as the teams headed into half-time.

The Lady Panthers had a 13-4 run to begin the second quarter which included three-pointers from Miller and Presley McDonald to build a 25-18 lead by the middle of the frame. But Johnson put together a personal six-point run with two free throws and a pair of layups to erased most of that advantage.

Van Alstyne was able to maintain a lead and when Kelsie Adams scored with 32 seconds left in the half, it was a 31-26 contest.

Jackson and Myer sandwiched threes around an Adams free throw with Myer’s coming from the top of the key at the buzzer as VA was focused on forcing Johnson to pass up the shot herself.

Van Alstyne was down 14-12 after the first quarter despite a strong start. The Lady Panthers were up 8-3 as Blankenship connected on a pair of threes but Anna used a quick 7-0 burst to jump in front.

Henderson connected from deep before Johnson had a layup with 12 seconds to go in the frame to give Anna the lead by a bucket heading into the second stanza.