It was tight at the half, but a 20-point third quarter and three Panthers in double-figures resulted in a bi-district championship Tuesday night for Midlothian.
Kaden Archie led the way with 18 points and four assists, and Caleb Jordan and Swahn Gibson both filled the bucket for 14 in the 12-point Midlothian win against Cleburne, 57-45.
The Yellowjackets entered the 5A Region II bi-district championship as the second seed in District 9-4A. Midlothian, still ranked ninth in the TABC 5A poll, represented District 10-5A as the third season and improved to 25-10 on the season.
Midlothian head boys' basketball coach Steven Middleton told The Mirror after the game that he thought the Panthers played well on both ends of the court.
"This time of year, a win is critically important. I thought Cleburne played really, really well and challenged us in a lot of areas," Middleton said. "I was very proud of our team in the third quarter when we had to have a definitive run, and we did it.
"It was big and we really took control of the game and, for all intents and purposes, put it away. We took all things that could affect the game outside of the game and put that all away and just played ball."
In addition to Archie, Jordan, and Gibson, Evan Marshall just missed a double-double with seven points and seven boards. Jon McDonald rounded out the Midlothian offense with four points.
The Panthers led 29-27 at the break before outscoring Cleburne 20-8 in the third quarter. The two squads virtually traded baskets in the fourth quarter, with the Panthers holding on for the win, 57-45.
Midlothian advanced to the 5A Region II area championship with the defeat of Cleburne. The Panthers will face Dallas Woodrow Wilson at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23 at South Grand Prairie High School.
Middleton said he is just excited to continue playing basketball.
"I am just so happy that we get to continue to play because that is truly a blessing," he added. "We have to get better in some areas, but Cleburne played our socks off, to be honest. We give them a lot of credit, but I think our district prepared us for these type of games. We always had a tough night and had to fight for wins, and I think that will help us down this stretch."
Fred Phipps/Mirror contributed to this report.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith