Though the final score doesn't necessarily reflect the dominant showing by the Midlothian Panthers Tuesday night against North Forney, the game was well in hand shortly after halftime of the 5A Region II bi-district championship.
The Panther led 51-25 at the end of the third quarter before a furious 36-point North Forney comeback in the fourth quarter. Midlothian ultimately "held on" for a 72-61 victory to advance to the 5A Region II area championship on Friday.
After the win, Midlothian head boys' basketball coach Steven Middleton noted that the Panthers had a great rhythm offensively for three quarters. He then admitted, "I messed with my team's chemistry in the fourth quarter by probably subbing a little too early and taking a few things for granted."
"You have to give [North Forney] a lot of credit because they took advantage of that and really played some scrappy basketball down the stretch," he continued. "[...] But, this time of year, when you win you get to move on and that is a blessing. We are going to stay with that mindset and keep things positive. For three quarters, we played really well, especially in the second and third quarters."
Zeke' Bennett and Nyk Madison led the Panthers with 21 and 20 points, respectively, while Jackson Tollefsbol and Omari Bobbitt both netted 12.
Corbin Green added three points and Roderick Reeder and Haylen Mattiza both chipped in two points.
The Panthers will now face (27-8) Sulphur Springs at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Forney High School in the 5A Region II area championship.
When asked how proud of his team he is, Middleton said, "extremely."
"I am hard on them, but I told them before the game that they have brought me a lot of pleasure because they have probably overachieved and probably went further than their expectations were," Middleton added. "They have been a pleasure to coach and it's been a pleasure to watch and coach them to reach their goals. We got a chance, and that's all you can ask for."
Fred Phipps/Daily Light contributed to this report.