After more than a half-century of games, the M.T. Rice Holiday Basketball Tournament just keeps getting bigger.

And, hopefully, better, organizers say.

Midway’s 56th annual high school basketball tournament will venture off school district property for the first time this season, as Connally High School will host 36 of the event’s 118 total games. That’s in addition to four gyms at Midway High School and Midway Middle School.

First-year Midway boys’ coach Brad Chasteen said that in order to grow the tournament, it needed to branch out.

“I think we had pretty much topped out at Midway, considering the boys and girls fields, just using our four gyms here,” Chasteen said. “So expanding it to Connally is a good thing, and hopefully next year we’ll be able to add a third site and grow it a little more.”

The tournament pits 20 boys’ teams and 20 girls’ teams against one another, with pool-play records determining who advances to the championship games. Unless a team goes 0-5 in its first five games, it is virtually guaranteed to play six games over the course of three days.

Due to the rigorous requirements of such a schedule, teams may find themselves digging a little deeper into their benches.

“I personally think it’s a great time to develop depth,” said Chasteen, whose team is off to a school-record 13-0 start. “You have to use a deeper lineup than just a match game, especially when you’re playing two games a day for three days. To ask a nine-man rotation to play 64 minutes a day, I think, is asking for trouble. So it’s a great time to give some other guys on your roster a chance to play, to see who might make a good addition to the rotation that you’ll use in district play.”

Fortunately for Chasteen, those players aren’t complete rookies. Twelve of the 14 players on Midway’s roster have started at least one game this year.

Other local teams competing in the boys’ tournament include Belton, University, Waco High, Temple, La Vega, Connally, Vanguard and Reicher. They’re joined by 11 other teams from around the state — Grapevine, Bowie, Georgetown, Pearland, Converse Judson, Round Rock, Montgomery, Legacy, Amarillo, Spring Woods and Rouse.

A Central Texas team hasn’t won the M.T. Rice boys’ title since University in 2012. Midway has won eight tournament titles, but none since 1983.

On the girls’ side, Midway carries a proud M.T. Rice legacy of success. The Pantherettes have won the tournament 24 times, most recently in 2014. With the 11th-ranked team in Class 6A, they boast another potent squad capable of celebrating come Thursday night.

Like their boys’ counterparts, the Midway girls are breaking in a new head coach this year in Ben Holder, who transitioned from the boys’ side. Former Midway coach Teresa Durham made the jump to Allen over the offseason.

Holder likes what he’s seen so far from his team, which is 13-3 overall and 2-1 in District 8-6A with a loss to 10th-ranked Ellison.

“We’ve had a lot of different players step up,” Holder said. “Janaiya Davis, our point guard, has played well. Barbara Benson plays the 4 (power forward) spot for us, but she’s versatile and is able to do a lot of great things. … Defensively, we’ve had some different people step up. Kyra Webster came in against Copperas Cove, and was able to shut their offense down in the third quarter.”

Belton won last year’s tournament title, and is back to defend that title. Other Central Texas teams in the field include Waco High, University and Connally. Round Rock Westwood, the 16th-ranked team in Class 6A, has advanced to three of the past four M.T. Rice finals and will look to break through with its first championship.

Filling out the girls field are Boswell, Midlothian, Austin Westlake, Rockwall Heath, Bishop Dunne, Round Rock, San Antonio Christian, North Crowley, Anahuac, Godley, Tyler Lee, Timber Creek, Cedar Park and Ennis.

“It’s a pretty good field,” Holder said. “We were at 16 teams four years ago when I came to Midway ISD, now we’re at 40 total teams, 20 boys and 20 girls. We’ve got some of the best in Central Texas, plus all over the state. When I came to Midway, everybody always talked about how amazing the M.T. Rice tournament used to be, and that’s what we want to build it back to.”

Games will begin at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at Midway High, Midway Middle and Connally High schools, and will run throughout the day. The championship games in the winner’s bracket, dubbed the platinum bracket, are slated for 6:30 p.m. Thursday for the girls and 8 p.m. for the boys.

M.T. Rice Tournament schedule

Tuesday, Dec. 27

(First team listed is home team)

9:30 a.m.

Waco High vs. Westwood (G) — Midway HS Arena

Round Rock vs. Temple — Midway HS small gym

Legacy vs. Montgomery — Midway MS big gym

Reicher vs. Belton — Midway MS auxiliary gym

Connally vs. Belton (G) — Connally HS main gym

11 a.m.

Midway vs. Grapevine — Midway HS Arena

North Crowley vs. Bishop Dunne (G) — Midway HS small gym

Amarillo vs. Georgetown — Midway MS big gym

Connally vs. Vanguard — Connally HS main gym

Ennis vs. Timber Creek (G) — Connally HS auxiliary gym

12:30 p.m.

Boxwell vs. University (G) — Midway HS Arena

Bowie vs. Legacy — Midway HS small gym

Westwood vs. Tyler Lee (G) — Midway MS big gym

Temple vs. Judson Midway MS auxiliary gym

Midway vs. Anahuac (G) — Connally HS main gym

Waco vs. La Vega — Connally HS auxiliary gym

2 p.m.

Georgetown vs. Pearland — Midway HS Arena

Round Rock vs. S.A. Christian (G) — Midway HS small gym

Belton vs. Round Rock — Midway MS big gym

Bishop Dunne vs. Rockwall Heath (G) Midway MS auxiliary gym

University vs. Spring Woods — Connally HS main gym

3:30 p.m.

Midlothian vs. Westlake (G) — Midway HS Arena

Grapevine vs. Montgomery — Midway HS small gym

University vs. Godley (G) — Midway MS big gym

Timber Creek vs. Cedar Park (G) — Connally HS main gym

Connally vs. Rouse — Connally HS auxiliary gym

5 p.m.

Judson vs. Reicher — Midway HS Arena

North Crowley vs. Anahuac (G) — Midway HS small gym

Pearland vs. Waco — Midway MS big gym

Tyler Lee vs. S.A. Christian (G) Midway MS auxiliary gym

Vanguard vs. University — Connally HS main gym

Belton vs. Ennis (G) — Connally HS auxiliary gym

6:30 p.m.

Midway vs. Rockwall Heath (G) — Midway HS Arena

La Vega vs. Amarillo — Midway HS small gym

Waco High vs. Round Rock (G) — Midway MS big gym

Connally vs. Cedar Park (G) — Connally HS main gym

8 p.m.

Midway vs. Bowie — Midway HS Arena

Godley vs. Westlake (G) — Midway HS small gym

Boswell vs. Midlothian (G) — Midway MS big gym

Rouse vs. Spring Woods — Connally HS main gym

Wednesday, Dec. 28

9:30 a.m.

University vs. Midlothian (G) — Midway HS Arena

Reicher vs. Round Rock — Midway HS small gym

Bowie vs. Grapevine — Midway MS big gym

Tyler Lee vs. Round Rock (G) Midway MS auxiliary gym

Connally vs. Ennis (G) — Connally HS main gym

11 a.m.

Legacy vs. Midway — Midway HS Arena

Belton vs. Timber Creek (G) — Midway HS small gym

La Vega vs. Pearland — Midway MS big gym

Midway vs. Bishop Dunne Midway MS auxiliary gym

Connally vs. University — Connally HS main gym

S.A. Christian vs. Westwood (G) — Connally HS auxiliary gym

12:30 p.m.

Waco vs. Tyler Lee (G) — Midway HS Arena

Amarillo vs. Waco — Midway HS small gym

Ennis vs. Cedar Park (G) — Midway MS big gym

Montgomery vs. Bowie Midway MS small gym

Boswell vs. Westlake (G) — Connally HS main gym

Temple vs. Reicher — Connally HS auxiliary gym

2 p.m.

University vs. Rouse — Midway HS Arena

Rockwall Heath vs. Anahuac (G) — Midway HS small gym

Round Rock vs. Judson — Midway MS big gym

Midlothian vs. Godley (G) Midway MS auxiliary gym

Georgetown vs. La Vega — Connally HS main gym

3:30 pm.

Midway vs. North Crowley (G) — Midway HS Arena

Spring Woods vs. Vanguard — Midway HS small gym

S.A. Christian vs. Waco (G) — Midway MS big gym

Round Rock vs. Westwood (G) — Connally HS main gym

Grapevine vs. Legacy — Connally HS auxiliary gym

5 p.m.

Pearland vs. Amarillo — Midway HS Arena

Boswell vs. Godley (G) — Midway HS small gym

Belton vs. Temple — Midway MS big gym

Waco vs. Georgetown — Connally HS main gym

Bishop Dunne vs. Anahuac (G) — Connally HS auxiliary gym

6:30 p.m. Belton vs. Cedar Park (G) — Midway HS Arena

Rouse vs. Vanguard — Midway HS small gym

North Crowley vs. Rockwall Heath (G) — Midway MS big gym

Connally vs. Timber Creek (G) — Connally HS main gym

8 p.m.

Judson vs. Belton — Midway HS Arena

Westlake vs. University (G) — Midway HS small gym

Midway vs. Montgomery — Midway MS big gym

Connally vs. Spring Woods — Connally HS main gym

Thursday, Dec. 29

9:30 a.m.

Platinum semi - girls — Midway HS Arena

Gold semi -girls — Midway HS small gym

Bronze semi - girls — Midway MS big gym

Consolation semi - girls Midway MS auxiliary gym

Silver semi - girls — Connally HS main gym

Consolation semi - boys — Connally HS auxiliary gym

11 a.m.

Platinum semi -girls — Midway HS Arena

Gold semi - girls — Midway HS small gym

Bronze semi - girls — Midway MS big gym

Consolation semi - girls Midway MS auxiliary gym

Silver semi - girls — Connally HS main gym

Consolation semi - boys — Connally HS auxiliary gym

12:30 p.m.

Platinum semi - boys — Midway HS Arena

Gold semi - boys — Midway HS small gym

Bronze semi - boys — Midway MS big gym

Silver semi - boys — Connally HS main gym

2 p.m.

Platinum semis - boys — Midway HS Arena

Gold semis - boys — Midway HS small gym

Bronze semis - boys — Midway MS big gym

Consolation finals - girls Midway MS small gym

Silver semis - boys — Connally HS main gym

Consolation finals - boys — Connally HS auxiliary gym

3:30 p.m.

Platinum 3rd place - girls — Midway HS Arena

Gold 3rd place - girls — Midway HS small gym

Bronze 3rd place - girls — Midway MS big gym

Silver 3rd place - girls — Connally HS main gym

5 p.m.

Platinum 3rd place - boys — Midway HS Arena

Gold 3rd place - boys — Midway HS small gym

Bronze 3rd place - boys — Midway MS big gym

Silver finals - girls — Connally HS main gym

6:30 p.m.

Platinum finals - girls — Midway HS Arena

Gold finals - girls — Midway HS small gym

Bronze finals - girls — Midway MS big gym

Silver 3rd place - boys — Connally HS main gym

8 p.m.

Platinum finals - boys — Midway HS Arena

Gold finals - boys — Midway HS small gym

Bronze finals - boys — Midway MS big gym

Silver finals - boys — Connally HS main gym

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