Brad Chasteen turned to the senior guard, an exasperated look on his face. “Ricky! Make the layup!” Chasteen shouted to Ricky Lacy, after the player had missed a contested drive.
Midway was up 25 points at the time.
In his second year as Midway head coach, Chasteen has raised the standard for Panther basketball. And his team seems to be responding. The 23rd-ranked Panthers demonstrated a crispness and verve not often rivaled at the MHS Arena on Friday night, as they demolished Killeen Shoemaker, 71-45.
It was just one win for the District 8-6A-leading Panthers (23-8, 10-1). But somehow it was more than that – and the players knew it. Afterward, they posed for a goofy team photo, then bellowed and danced in the locker room while dousing Chasteen with the water cooler.
With the win, Midway clinched no less than second place in the district with three games left to play. Better yet, it also marked Midway’s first win over Shoemaker as a Class 6A school and first since the 2008-09 season, when then-coach Rusty Walker led Midway to a 58-41 non-district victory over the Grey Wolves.
“It’s a good win,” said a soaked Chasteen. “So we’ve already clinched at least second, which is not what we want, but it’s a good feeling. We’ve still got a lot of ball to play.”
Midway’s game plan coming into Friday wasn’t complicated. When they had the ball, the Panthers wanted to attack Shoemaker big man Jwan Roberts, who had burned Midway in the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 9 in Killeen, which resulted in a 73-60 win for the Grey Wolves.
Chasteen figured that if Midway could force Roberts to contest some shots defensively, the Panthers might be able to get him into foul trouble. Roberts still swatted away a few Midway attempts around the hoop, but for the most part, the strategy worked to perfection.
“The big guy killed us over there when we trapped them, because he’s big and he’s a nice passer,” Chasteen said. “We felt like when he went out with foul trouble that meant we could press them a little bit. We got a couple of early turnovers, and it kind of exploded.”
Roberts, who scored 12 points, kept his team close for a while. He soared for a pair of dunks in the first half, including rising up to flush the receiving end of an alley-oop inbound pass early in the second quarter. That bucket cut Midway’s lead to 19-17.
But Midway was just getting started. The Panthers’ own big-man tag team of Levi Whiddon and Will Rigney controlled the backboards, then sprayed outlet passes to fuel Midway’s transition game. And Midway’s arsenal of quick, heady guards – Lacy, Anthony Scott, C.J. Williams and Diego Gonzalez – pushed the ball at every opportunity.
Shoemaker scored on a driving layup with 2:31 to go in the first half to make the score, 29-21 Panthers. Then, as Chasteen alluded, Midway erupted like a volcano with an attitude. Midway scored the next 19 points – closing the first half on a 9-0 run before opening the third quarter on an 11-0 surge.
During that stretch, Midway’s players appeared to be reading from one shared Kindle – because they were all on the same page. Williams came up with a steal and pushed the ball ahead to Scott, who in turn fed Rigney with a sweet look-away pass for the assist. Williams and Rigney crashed the offensive glass for tip-ins, and Gonzalez connected for a variety of tough, driving leaners.
Scott finished with 18 points and six assists, threading the needle for several pinpoint deliveries. But that type of passing proved contagious throughout the Panther lineup.
“Anthony is a good passer, but so is Diego, so is CJ, Ricky Lacy,” Chasteen said. “Sometimes it’s like we have three point guards on the floor, maybe even four. When we were holding the ball and delaying, we got a little out of sorts. But overall we shared the ball. We’ve got guards who are unselfish, and it’s fun to watch.”
By the time Shoemaker finally broke up Midway’s 19-0 run with a Christian Davis free throw at the 4:47 mark of the third quarter, the Panthers had shot out to a 48-21 advantage.
And though Shoemaker occasionally pressured Midway into a few fast break-feeding turnovers, the Grey Wolves couldn’t overcame that vast of a gap.
Gonzalez scored 14 points, repeatedly and fearlessly attacking the paint for driving buckets. Lacy scored 13 points and contributed two steals, while Rigney scored 12 points and yanked down a game-high 12 rebounds to go with two steals. Whiddon nabbed nine boards.
Rigney’s season-long contributions seem all the more impressive considering he wasn’t even on the roster – or Chasteen’s radar – when the team started practice. The junior also pitches on Midway’s baseball team, but through some pleading he convinced Chasteen to give him a chance on the court.
“He approached me in late October,” Chasteen said. “We’d already started practicing, and I put him off and discouraged him, seriously. He just wore me out. So I finally sat down and had a meeting with his dad and our baseball coach, Eddie Cornblum. And I wanted to make sure everybody was on board with it.
“Once we got everybody’s blessings, we went for it. And, man, he’s been a great addition, because he’s a big, old strong kid, and he loves to play. The kids love him, so the chemistry was great from Day One. He’s been a super addition to the team.”
Duwain Thomas topped Shoemaker with 17 points, while Roberts scored 10 of his 12 in the first half, as Midway held him in check after the break.
The Panthers will next travel to San Angelo on Tuesday to take on San Angelo Central.