By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
MIDLOTHIAN — With Friday’s huge second half, the Midlothian Panthers officially set the stage for a repeat opportunity to steal a portion of the District 14-5A crown in the final game of the season.
The Panthers carried an eight-point lead into the third quarter and then outpaced the visiting Corsicana Tigers 32-19 in the second half for the 60-39 district victory inside Panther Arena.
Following the win, which came after the Panthers honored their seniors, head coach Steven Middleton told KBEC Sports that he thought the game was “choppy.”
Even still, senior Nyk Madison led the Panthers with 19 points, while Omari Bobbitt had 12 and Jackson Tollefsbol scored 10. Kelton Williams and Corbin Green each added seven points. Roderick Reeder (2 points) and Haylen Mattiza (1) rounded out the Midlothian scoring.
All three leading scorers were seniors — a group that was with the Panthers during their magical run to the 5A state tournament in 2018 and has racked up 75 wins and counting over the past three seasons.
“They (the seniors) are a special group and I am a little emotional about it,” Middleton said. “I have a love for this group because they have carried the torch. After we went to the state tournament their sophomore year, they promised that they were not going to let our program slip. They have held that badge of honor and have delivered a winning culture to Midlothian basketball and kept a winning culture. I am proud of them as basketball players and also as people.”
The Panthers improved to 23-8 overall and 10-1 in District 14-5A with the win.
“We got out of our routine tonight but had our good moments and we won, so I’ll take that,” added Middleton, who was honored before the game with a plaque commemorating his 100th victory as the Panthers’ head coach. “Corsicana played really well, I thought. But, Tuesday night…”
Tuesday is a big one for Middleton and the Panthers — the biggest of the regular season, in fact. It also has Midlothian sitting in the exact same spot as it did one year ago.
The Panthers will once again have the opportunity to play spoiler and upset No. 12 (21-11, 11-0) Red Oak and force a share of the District 14-5A crown. The same opportunity was presented in 2019 and Panthers capitalized.
As both Madison and Middleton looked toward Tuesday, each agreed that previous efforts would not suffice, especially since Red Oak won the first meeting 57-52 on the Panthers’ home court.
“Last time, I thought I did a lot,” the senior said. “But this time I am going to really focus in and, most importantly, we have to get the victory so I am going to do everything possible to help our team win.”
Middleton added, “It’s not about preparation anymore. We have to meet their intensity and have our will to win. That will decide the game.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. in Red Oak.
All photos by Fred Phipps/KBEC Sports
Fred Phipps/KBEC Sports contributed to this report.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith