The Midway Panthers gathered themselves just in time to grasp an important district victory over Killeen Ellison on Friday night at the Panthers’ gym
Although Ellison erased a 13-point Panthers lead in the fourth quarter, Midway made the plays it needed in the final minute and claimed a 59-56 victory.
Midway surged ahead 53-40 by the end of the third quarter. But then the Panthers slowed down on the offensive end, and the change of pace evolved into an almost-lethal cold spell.
Ellison guard Dejuan Jones hit a pair of 3-pointers during a 14-0 run and guard Mike Aranda capped it with another trey to put the Eagles ahead, 54-53, with 1:16 left.
Midway went more than seven minutes without scoring and appeared in jeopardy of being shut out in the final quarter.
But then Panthers guard C.J. Williams drove for a running jumper just outside of the lane to break Midway’s drought and regain the lead, 55-54, with 59 seconds to go.
“We hadn’t scored in forever until that moment,” Midway coach Brad Chasteen said. “We actually had a different play designed and he just took it upon himself to go to the rim, so that was a big play.”
With Ellison trailing by a point, Midway forward Bubba Furlong grabbed a rebound to stop one of the Eagles last chances to go back ahead.
Furlong, who missed his first five free throws of the night, went to the line to hit a pair of clutch foul shots with 21 seconds left. Guard Xavier Armstead added two more makes from the line to help the Panthers hang on.
By prevailing, Midway (26-6, 10-3 in District 8-6A) pulled even with Ellison (24-7, 10-3) for second place in 8-6A with one game remaining in the regular season. If the Panthers and Eagles, both of whom have clinched playoff berths, remain tied after Tuesday’s games, they will have to either have a one-game playoff for second place or flip a coin for playoff seeding.
Armstead paced Midway with 18 points, Furlong scored 17 and grabbed 10 rebounds, and forward Malachi Barron added 11.
Jones led Ellison with 20, Aranda added 15 and forward Casey Armour had 10. Before Midway lost control of the game in the fourth quarter, the Panthers played an outstanding third period.
Armstead and forward Malachi Barron each stole passes and converted them into layups on the other end on Ellison’s first two possessions of the second half. Armstead added a 3-pointer to cap a 7-0 run and gave Midway the lead, 36-30, just 57 seconds into the third quarter.
Furlong and Barron hit 3-pointers on consecutive trips down the floor midway through the period to extend the Panthers’ lead to nine points, matching their largest of the contest to that point.
The second half followed a trend established in the first two quarters.
Midway started fast in the first quarter and grabbed a nine-point edge on an Armstead basket with 5:51 left before halftime.
Then the Eagles closed the half on a 12-2 run to take a 30-29 lead to the break.
But Midway ultimately changed the momentum at the right times to earn the victory.
“I thought we were back on our heels in the second quarter, trying to nurse a lead that far out,” Chasteen said. “We decided to get back after them, get in the passing lanes and play better man-to-man defense. That kind of turned things around for us.”