There will be a new state champion in 5A boys’ hoops.
Kaden Archie scored 16 of his game-high 29 points in the second half Tuesday night to fuel No. 9 Midlothian past No. 3 Mansfield Timberview, 53-50. The win advanced the Panthers to the program’s first-ever regional basketball tournament.
Midlothian head boys’ basketball coach Steven Middleton said he is excited to travel the “uncharted waters.”
"We have never been to a regional tournament as a basketball program. To do that at this level playing against DFW teams and to do that in this venue it is unbelievable," Middleton said. "The show of support from the Midlothian community, you know, this does wonders for our team as a family and for the community. It is really, really special for us."
The Panthers lost to the Wolves both times during District 10-5A. Following the first game, which Midlothian led late before falling in the final few seconds, Middleton said he was "distraught."
"I'd rather take this one," he said with a laugh. "To beat the state champion says a lot. They have really, really good players but my kids just locked in. Bottom line, we got it done."
Timberview grabbed the early lead and momentum, but the Panthers fought back in the second quarter behind treys from Archie, Evan Marshall and Caleb Jordan to outscore the Wolves 17-9 in the frame. They carried a four-point lead into the halftime locker room, 26-22.
The Midlothian lead grew to seven, 33-26, with just over four minutes to play in the third quarter. Fewer than two minutes of game time later and the Panthers found themselves down 37-33.
Archie then converted on an and-one to cut the deficit to one, 37-36, with 2:08 to play in the third quarter. He then scored the next four Midlothian points, which included a mid-range jumper at the buzzer, to send the Panthers into the fourth quarter trailing Timberview by two, 42-40.
Both teams struggled offensively over the next four minutes of game time. Midlothian did manage to take a 46-44 lead after Swahn Gibson banked home a runner that forced a Wolves timeout.
The Panthers still led, 48-47, as the clock dipped under two minutes to play. The lead grew to three when Archie took a perfect trip to the line out of a Middleton timeout with 1:31 remaining in regulation.
Following a made Wolves bucket, the Panthers played the keep-away game to perfection, running over 40 seconds off of the clock before Archie was fouled trying to pass to a wide-open Evan Marshall under the bucket.
He split the pair of free throws to put the Panthers up, 51-49, with under 20.3 seconds to play.
Marshall did have the opportunity to leave his mark in the final minute, though. His block of Chris Mullins' 10-foot jumper resulted in a hurried second attempt and Midlothian foul. Mullins missed the first free throw and made the second to pull the Wolves within a single possession, 52-50.
Timberview fouled Caleb Jordan on the inbound, and the senior made the first to put the Panthers up three. He then missed the second to breathe a little life into the Wolves and their faithful.
Storytellers can't make this up: A few seconds later, and some 64 miles away in Bridgeport, Noah Parker made two clutch free throws to punch the Midlothian Heritage Jaguars’ ticket to the 4A Region I tournament with an 85-82 win over No. 21 Burkburnett. Free throws. Both games came down to free throws separated by mere seconds. Outstanding. Back to the regularly scheduled programming.
A late Timberview prayer went unanswered and officially punched the Panthers’ ticket to the regional tournament, 53-50.
In addition to Archie's 29, Gibson and Marshall each scored nine points and Jordan rounded out the Panther scoring with six.
Midlothian moves on to face No. 5 (32-3) Prosper in the 5A Region II semifinals. Tipoff is at 6p.m. Friday at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland. Lancaster and Mount Pleasant follow at 7:30 p.m. The winners will play at noon Saturday at the Curtis Culwell Center with a chance to advance to the state tournament in San Antonio.
"It's a blessing to still be playing," Middleton said. "We are going to enjoy this tonight, and then I am going to get up in the morning and work my tail off."