Probably the biggest compliment that can be paid to the Midway boys and their record-setting start is that while an unbeaten mark might generate buzz outside of the locker room, inside those four walls is an entirely different story.
“I don’t think we’re surprised, or even think about it that much,” Midway senior Xavier Armstead said. “Some of us have been playing together since we were five years old, so we expect to play well together. We should play well together.”
Midway continued to play well together -- and then some – with a 59-41 win over Austin Bowie on Tuesday night in the M.T. Rice Tournament, improving to 15-0 behind 17 points from Armstead, a 6-foot-5 forward, and 18 points from 6-9 senior center Bubba Furlong.
It was the Panthers’ second win of the day following a win over Grapevine in Tuesday’s opener.
Midway plays twice on Wednesday – against Mansfield Legacy at 11 a.m. in the main gym at Midway High and against Houston Montgomery at 8 p.m. at Midway Middle School.
“We played pretty good, but we’ve got a long ways to go,” Furlong said. “Conditioning-wise, we played a little slow at times, so I don’t think that was really one of our best games.”
Leading 17-14 after the first quarter, Midway pushed its lead to 29-21 in the second quarter after a one-handed dunk by Furlong, who picked up his second foul shortly after. Midway went to 6-7 sophomore Levi Whiddon, who responded with a basket to push the lead to 33-23 at halftime.
“I could’ve got a little more lift on that dunk,” Furlong said, smiling. “See, that’s the conditioning I was talking about.”
Midway led 49-32 in the fourth quarter before Bowie staged a mild rally, cutting the lead to 49-37 before Midway coach Brad Chasteen called a timeout.
“Teenagers lose focus sometimes, and in that case they’re thinking ‘Well, we have a nice lead,’” Chasteen said. “It doesn’t always have to be a butt-chewing timeout, it can be a timeout just to get everybody refocused. I think they responded well after that.”
Midway came out of the timeout and answered with a steal and one-handed dunk by Armstead.
“We’ve got to keep pushing, playing like we were playing in the first half,” Armstead said. “We can’t just sit on the lead. It’s going to be tiring playing two games every day, but we have to be prepared for that.”
La Vega 61, Amarillo 52
La Vega rallied early. then held tough down the stretch for a win in pool play.
La Vega was led by De’Andre Reese’s game-high 20 points and a big game in the post by 6-foot-5 Kendrick James, who finished with 16 points and eight rebounds.
The Pirates trailed 15-9 after the first quarter, then rallied to take a 27-21 halftime lead and never trailed again.
Amani Gibson added 13 points and six rebounds for La Vega. Renick Hill led Amarillo with 15 points.
Midway 75, Grapevine 67
In the Panthers’ opening game of the tournament, they used a sharp shooting touch to survive some occasionally ragged play.
Grapevine sliced a double-digit lead to six points with 30 seconds to play on a Dalton Novotny 3-pointer. But the Mustangs quickly fouled Malachi Barron, who sank a pair of foul shots to push the gap back to eight, and Midway survived.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, and I can’t remember a well-played game on the first day back after a Christmas break,” Chasteen said. “It’s almost like as a coach I’m ready to get it over with, so we can move on. I’m just glad we won doing it.”
Though both teams suffered some lapses on both ends of the court, they didn’t show any rust with their outside marksmanship. Seven of the first eight shots the teams combined to hit were net-swishing 3-pointers, and Midway led 24-23 after a prolific first quarter.
Though Chasteen obviously wants his team to knock down open shots, he prefers when the Panthers play more inside-out, and run through their offense through 6-foot-9 senior post Bubba Furlong.
“We need to get Bubba more touches, and when you hit two or three early, it’s like everybody thinks that’s the way you score,” Chasteen said. “It’s fool’s gold. But Grapevine does it for a living, too.”
Indeed, Midway didn’t maintain its sizzling early pace from outside, but the Panthers continued to bury big shots at timely moments. R.J. Jackson drilled a pair of treys in the second quarter as Midway opened up a 42-29 halftime edge.
Armstead delivered an array of heady plays for the Panthers throughout the game, including drawing a foul while going up for a long jumper at the first-half buzzer. Armstead led Midway with 17 points, while Jackson scored 14, Barron added 13 and Furlong chipped in 12.
Ethan Tabor hit for a game-high 19 points for Grapevine, connecting on four 3-point bombs.
Tribune-Herald sports editor Brice Cherry contributed to this report.