The Tuesday night tilt between Red Oak and Midlothian was billed as a must-see high school basketball game in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
It did not disappoint.
Red Oak entered the Midlothian High School arena with an opportunity to win its first outright district championship in quite some time. The Panthers, on the other hand, were poised to play spoiler and force a share of the District 14-5A crown.
And spoil they did.
Midlothian defeated Red Oak, 53-44, leaving both teams with an 11-1 district record and each having a claim to a portion of the title.
Midlothian finishes the regular season with an overall record of 23-9, while Red Oak fell to 27-6.
The Panthers will face the winner of West Mesquite and North Forney, as the two teams are playing a seeding game Friday night.
After the win, Midlothian head boys' basketball coach Steven Middleton admitted, "it has been one heck of a year." He noted that not many people outside of the program thought the Panthers, who lost about 95 percent of their scoring and rebounding production from one year ago, could compete for a district championship — much less win it.
"It is a testament to them and them committing themselves totally," Middleton said. "I am so proud of them as a group and individually.
He added, "I couldn't be more proud as a coach right now."
Zeke' Bennett led the Panthers with 19 points, which included finishing 7-of-8 from the free throw line. Nyk Madison filled up the bucket for 15 points, scoring all of those in the second half.
Omari Bobbitt also scored 15 points for Midlothian in the win.
And Middleton couldn't wait to boast about the efforts of all three after the game.
"Zeke' Bennett was absolutely fabulous and has had a fabulous year," Middleton said. "To me, he is the most valuable player in this district. He might not be the most talented player or the best player, but he is the most valuable player in this district, in my opinion. Nyk Madison came in the second half and really tore it up with some big minutes. Omari Bobbitt was big, too."
Haylen Mattiza, a 6-foot-6 junior forward, added three points to the Midlothian cause.
When asked what he and the Panthers would take away from Tuesday's win, Middleton said with a laugh, "That we are district champions and that we won 23 games and beat Red Oak, who is ranked 14th or 15th. We have to look that up because I have to tweet about it.
"This is just a fabulous feeling in our program right now," he continued. "To win 11 games in this district and avenge our only loss says a lot."
As for Red Oak, the Hawks were led by Marcus Sasser's 17 points and 15 more scored by Joshua Sasser. Joshua Miller and Latrone Turner Jr. both added six points.
Red Oak converted on just 2-of-their-9 free throws on the evening.
The Hawks head coach, Jason Sasser, said the challenge Red Oak faced Tuesday might sting now, but would be beneficial as the team moves into the postseason.
"It was a good game for us because we had been coasting through district and haven't had many challenges. Midlothian has been our toughest challenge," Sasser explained. "The intensity made this a playoff atmosphere and I loved that for our guys because we have a lot of guys who have never been to the playoffs. This is the first time in a long time for Red Oak.
He continued, "it hurts right now but we are still co-district champs. I told these guys that they need to keep their heads up because, even though we have to share it, we are still district champs."
Fred Phipps/Daily Light contributed to this report.