Midway’s expanded 48-team M.T. Rice Holiday Basketball Tournament invited teams from a wide range of area codes around the state, including some from the 512 (Austin area), 713 (Houston) and 214 (Dallas/Fort Worth).

However, on the tourney’s first day, several teams from the ol’ familiar 254 made some solid connections.

The host Midway boys team dispatched its two pool-play opponents by an average of 48.5 points, while Waco High’s boys also ran off a pair of first-day victories. As winners of both of their pools, the Lions and Panthers will meet in the gold bracket quarterfinals at 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

Meawhile, Connally and University split a pair of games in their respective pools, missing out by going 2-0 by a combined six points.

“It should be a good crowd. We beat them pretty easily here earlier in the year, and that won’t happen again,” Midway coach Brad Chasteen said of Waco High. “They’ll be ready for us. They’re talented.”

Midway (13-5) was already off to a decent start to the season, but benefited from some reinforcements on the debut day of the tournament. The Panthers welcomed in four football players seeing their first action of the season after playing key roles on Midway’s run to the state game – C.J. Williams, Kaitori Leveston, Dart Smith and Cobe Burch.

That influx of talent makes the bench even sturdier – a fact plenty evident in the Panthers’ 86-22 blowout of Bruceville-Eddy on Thursday morning followed by an 82-49 pounding of Houston’s C.E. King on Thursday night.

“I talked to some of my key guys, who have been with me all year, not the football guys, and they’re excited,” Chasteen said. “They feel like we’ve got a little injection that can take us to another level. When you’ve got a guy like C.J. Williams, who’s a four-year letterman and the success he had on the football field, it carries over. It’s contagious. It’s really cool.”

One of those basketball players who has been driving the Panthers since the jump is sophomore point guard Anthony Scott, who travels the court so briskly it appears he’s on roller blades. Against King, Scott and Midway zipped out to a 10-2 lead within the first 90 seconds of the game on their way to a 31-point first quarter.

Midway seemed as though it was running a layup drill at times, helped along by a bevy of steals which fueled those runouts.

“We talk about it all the time,” Chasteen said. “Stops determine how hard we get to run. That was great. That’s the best we’ve run this year in transition. Of course, it helps to have four more players. Because even if you only do it subconsciously, you try to pace yourself at times. Now we don’t have to, because we’ve got the depth.”

Scott also showed off his range, drilling four first-half 3-pointers on his way to a game-leading 20 points. Midway had the game well in hand by the halftime break, up 52-18.

Will Rigney gave Midway some furious hustle off the bench and finished with 12 points, and Diego Gonzalez contributed nine. Eleven of Midway’s 13 players cracked the scorebook.

King senior guard Jaylen Davis scored 16 to lead his team, burying four 3-pointers.

Other boys’ teams who went 2-0 and won their pool on the opening day to advance to the gold bracket were Converse Judson, Pearland, Lake Ridge, Houston Christian and Coppell. Connally went 1-1 and advanced on point differential.

Waco High 47, Mansfield Legacy 45

Led by Dale Scott’s game-high 20 points, the Lions rose up and made several critical plays in the final minutes to preserve a tight win over the Broncos in their tournament opener.

Displaying active hands that poked their way into the passing lanes, the Lions raced out in transition with regularity in the first half. They darted to several breakaway laups, and closed the half on a 12-2 spurt to take a 13-point lead into halftime.

But Legacy shot its way back in the second half. When its senior guard Trevone Fuller angled around a defender and scooped up a reverse layup with 45 second to play, Legacy trailed only 45-43.

But on the ensuing trip downcourt, Waco High’s Jimmy Veal navigated through the traffic before dumping off a pass to a wide-open Wayne Pearsall for the layup, and the Lions were able to whittle the game away from there. Pearsall finished with eight points for Waco High.

Waco High then followed with a 64-55 victory over Nacogdoches later on Thursday to win its pool and advance to a quarterfinal matchup with Midway.

La Vega 62, Georgetown 59

What can Brown do for you? In La Vega’s case, they can ice a win.

La Vega’s Ralin Brown and Johnathan Brown both connected on clutch 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter to help the Pirates fend off the Eagles in the teams’ tournament opener.

The game was tight and entertaining throughout, and Georgetown pushed to a 53-51 lead on a pair of free throws with 2:31 to play. But Ralin Brown knocked down a trey on La Vega’s next possession, and then shortly thereafter he drove into the lane before firing a kickout pass to Johnathan Brown on the corner for another net-tickling 3-pointer, giving La Vega a 57-53 edge.

Georgetown was forced to foul to preserve time down the stretch, and La Vega stretched the lead to six before the Eagles’ Adam Bizzell casually tossed in a meaningless half-court shot at the final buzzer.

Bizzell showed tenacity in the paint and scored 21 points for Georgetown, while his teammate Caden Ueckert led everyone with 25.

For La Vega, Amari Gibson hit for 21 points, including going 6-for-6 on free throws in the fourth quarter. Johnathan Brown tossed in 12 points, swishing in a trio of 3-pointers, and Ralin Brown had 10.

In its second game of the day, La Vega couldn’t keep pace with Converse Judson, falling 92-64.

GIRLS

Midway 58, Connally 35

The 22nd-ranked Pantherettes applied a stranglehold on the lead with a 15-0 run to close the first half, silencing any upset try from Class 4A’s 18th-ranked Connally.

The play was often ragged and replete with turnovers in the opening game of the day. Connally managed to keep within arm’s length for the game’s first 12 minutes, trailing 13-6 after a quarter and only 18-11 after Miannah Little drained a 3-pointer from the top of the arc midway through the second period.

But Midway cranked up the defensive pressure thereafter, assuring that Little’s trey would be the last bucket of the half for the Lady Cadets. The Pantherettes ripped off the next 15 in a row, highlighted by Michala Pullen-Monroe collecting a carom on the defensive end and then weaving her way downcourt for a coast-to-coast layin. Midway also showed its defensive prowess when Little looked to get loose for a layup, only to be spurned by a rejection from the Pantherettes’ Reese Rhodes.

Little stepped up her play after the break, scoring 11 of her game-best 16 in the second half, but it wasn’t enough for the Lady Cadets to mount a rally. Keyonna Lane contributed nine points for Connally.

Kim Rivers topped Midway’s balanced attack with 11 points and Caleyah Burrell added nine. Ja’Naiya Davis scored all eight of her points for the Pantherettes in the opening quarter.

Austin High 50, Waco High 32

The Maroons left the Lady Lions behind in the first quarter, as Waco High struggled to get rolling in its opener, falling behind 17-2 after a quarter of play.

Waco High also had no answer for Austin’s 6-3 senior post Mia Heide, who carved out her place in the post and powered to 22 points. Ellen Hagan added 12 points for the Maroons.

After scoring only eight points in the first half, Waco High finally started playing crisper after the break, scoring 23 in the second half. Ed’taezjia Cortez scored nine points to pace the Lady Lions.

Lorena 41, Round Rock Westwood 40

The Lady Leopards pulled out a gritty, hard-fought win over Class 6A Westwood to win their pool, taking advantage of their familiarity with their home gym in Lorena.

Lorena also picked up a 46-32 win over Hutto earlier in the day.

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