Teams can even face adversity at home. The Van Vleck Leopards did for sure Tuesday night against cross-county rival Palacios in a District 24-3A game.
The district-leading Leopards were pushed to their limits, but they came away with a 46-38 victory over the Sharks in a game where things got a bit testy at the end.
A technical foul was called after tempers flared following a loose ball foul call on Palacios. Several fans were escorted out of the gym by police before the final minute could be played.
Van Vleck’s Christian Ellis hit all three technical foul shots he attempted following the delay to help put the game out of reach.
“It goes to show our kids have built resilience. They have fought against adversity. They fought against the crowd. That’s not the first or the last time were going to transpire like that. It’s a hostile environment,” Van Vleck Coach Jhoillin Cole said. “These kids need to understand that in a hostile environment, you keep your composure. I think my kids did a great job of keeping their composure.”
Ellis’ three free throws were part of a 6-0 run by the Leopards to close out the game after the Sharks got back within two points in the fourth quarter.
Palacios Coach Trent Weixelman said the loose ball foul was questionable, but his players needed to keep their composure in that situation.
“I told the kids at halftime that things were going to be wild and to not worry about things we don’t have control of: officials, calls, fans, opponents. Take care of us and the things you can control: attitude, hustle, our team, our mentality,” Weixelman said. “Well we lost sight of that in the heat of the moment and it cost us. It’s a lesson, I as the coach need to fix it and get us prepared better mentally. Kids get provoked all the time. it seems to be the norm now days. How you react or don’t react is your decision. At the end of the day it’s still about wins and losses when its written in the books. But I want our kids to understand how to do it the right way, the right way will lead to more wins than losses when the dust settles.”
Van Vleck clung to a 40-38 lead with 1:19 remaining in the game when Cameron Franklin hit a basket off a steal and was fouled. Franklin hit the subsequent free throw to put the Leopards up by five.
Van Vleck was up 32-21 heading into the final quarter when the Sharks started to make their move in the fourth. Palacios went on a 10-2 run in the fourth quarter that was finished off by a Camron Polk 3-pointer to cut the Van Vleck lead to 38-36 with 2:25 left in the game. Polk had five points during the run with Nathan Perez contributing a 3-pointer and Slone Greaves picking up a basket as well.
Franklin stopped the Palacios run with a basket, but Keegan Garcia answered with a basket for Palacios to keep the Sharks within two, 40-38, and set the stage for the final minute of the game.
“The better team won. The team that shows the most composure is going to win,” Cole said. “I thought my kids did a really good job of holding their and knocking down free throws when they needed to be knocked down.”
Ellis led Van Vleck with 20 points while Franklin finished in double-digits as well with 12. Perez led Palacios 13 points while Polk picked up nine points.
Van Vleck opened up an 11-point advantage in the second quarter and maintained through the third. The Leopards held a 10-5 lead heading into the second quarter when they went on a 7-0 run to start the period to take a 17-5 lead. Jalen Williams scored five of his eight points in the game during the run. Bryson Blackmon also had a basket.
Palacios cut the lead back to six on baskets by Greaves, Polk and Perez before Van Vleck closed the first half on a 7-2 run. Ellis had four of those points.
The Van Vleck lead got as high as 15 points in the third quarter. Ellis hit a pair of baskets to start the second half to give the Leopards a 28-13 lead.
Other scorers for Van Vleck included Sam Bree, who had three points, Blackmon, who finished with two and KaDarius Woodard, who had one.
Greaves finished with five points for Palacios. Kolby Wilson had three points while Gary Haynes, Garcia, Jacob Guerrero and Jordin Nemes had two points each.