There was a time not long ago when it was a nearly annual tradition for Midway’s girls to give themselves the gift of an M.T. Rice Holiday Basketball Tournament championship.
That hasn’t been the case in recent years, however, as the Pantherettes entered Saturday having won the event once since 2009.
With a young team down by 11 to Kerrville Tivy in the second quarter, it appeared this year’s senior class could go through their high school years without ever hoisting the trophy. But a defensive change resulted in Midway allowing 10 points in the second half and allowed it to win its 25th M.T. Rice title, 48-38, Saturday afternoon.
“Like I said earlier in the week, we invited 24 teams to this thing, and we sure didn’t want to see that trophy get out of town,” Midway coach Ben Holder said. “It’s a big deal, especially for my three seniors. They hadn’t won the M.T. Rice, so it was a very big deal.”
Caleyah Burrell is one of those three seniors, and she scored 21 points to pull down MVP honors. Janaiya Davis added 11 for the Pantherettes (20-4), who took control for good with a 17-0 run that spanned the final seconds of the third quarter and first seven-plus minutes of the fourth.
In fact, the Antlers didn’t score a point in the final quarter until both teams emptied their benches with less than 30 seconds to go.
“They were killing us in our man defense, so we had to do some different things,” Holder said. “So we gave them some zone schemes that obviously changed the game for us, allowed us to take the lead and hold it.”
That zone scheme allowed Midway to get back on defense, something it struggled with in for much of the first half and resulted in several easy Tivy baskets.
Charli Becker was the primary recipient of leaking down the floor after Midway’s missed shots and turnovers, and she scored all of her team-high 11 points in the second quarter.
“We’re a very young team. We graduated 13 seniors last year, so we are still learning the small, fine points of the game,” Holder said. “We’re trying to fix those things constantly, so we’re going to make some mistakes like that. Hopefully it doesn’t cost us. Today it didn’t. We were able to overcome it.”
Midway jumped out to a 13-5 lead early, but the Antlers moved ahead for the first time on Katie Harmon’s baseline jumper with 6:09 to go in the second quarter. Becker then made a layup, two free throws, a 3-pointer and all three free throws after being fouled on a shot from deep during 14-2 spurt to push the margin to 28-17.
But Midway stabilized at the end of the quarter and scored the final six points of the first half to get back within 28-23 at halftime. Tivy never solved the Midway zone in the second half, and J’Lynn Gus’ layup early in the fourth put the Pantherettes up for good.
“Momentum is a huge deal. That first quarter we were up, and then we gave the momentum back to them,” Holder said. “We allowed ourselves a chance to come back a little bit being down five at halftime. Any time you have a chance to overcome mistakes and build on that, you have a chance to be better.”
Miller Kopp dropped 38 points to earn MVP honors and lead Houston Christian past Mansfield Lake Ridge, 74-54, to claim the boys’ M.T. Rice title.
Kopp had two three-point plays and made three 3-pointers in a 15-point first quarter that set the tone for his day and helped the Mustangs to a 22-7 lead after the opening frame. The result was never in doubt after that.
Donnie Houston had 14 points and Sahvir Wheeler added 13 for Houston Christian. Jordan Hayes and Legend Barrett scored 13 points each to lead Lake Ridge.