MIDLOTHIAN – Midlothian’s dynamic senior duo got one last chance to play on the home court Friday. They came within a few plays of getting the heroes’ exit they deserved.
Derick Agbaroji exploded for 26 points while classmate Blaine Blackburn put up 23 but in the end it just wasn’t quite enough to surpass Mansfield Timberview as the Panthers fell 82-71 in overtime.
“I told them before the game it’s senior night, it’s a special evening for all the seniors and for the underclassmen to make it a special evening for the upperclassmen,” coach Glenn Hartson said. “I told Derick and Blaine to have the game of their life, something that they can remember. I thought they played well, just came up a little bit short.”
Agbaroji, the team’s leading scorer at more than 16 points per game, eclipsed his season average by halftime, scoring 16 of the team’s 30 first half points. The Panthers led 30-28 at the half.
“It was the last game in the jungle so I was thinking before the game I was going to come out and do everything I was thinking about doing and I kind of just started doing it. It felt natural,” Agbaroji said.
The senior then tacked on 10 more in the third before being saddled with his fourth foul late in the third period. That forced Hartson to pull Agbaroji to keep him from fouling out with a full period still left to play. Timberview responded by going on a 12-0 run after Agbaroji’s last bucket to take a 52-46 lead into the third period.
Meanwhile, Blackburn quietly had just eight points at the end of the third period. With Agbaroji out, the jump shooting specialist went to work whittling down the Wolves’ lead. Blackburn’s steal of a pass near halfcourt led to an eventual bank shot with 47 seconds left to make it a three-point game, 63-60.
After Timberview went 1-of-2 from the line, Blackburn got another scoring chance, this time with the clock stopped. He hit both free throws to make it a two-point game. The Wolves again went 1-of-2 from the free throw line to make it a one possession contest with 18.3 seconds left.
Down 65-62 with under 10 seconds left, Blackburn drove to the right corner and tried to draw a foul while shooting a 3-pointer but the contact did not force a whistle. Instead, the senior hit the court and the ball floated behind the basket and into out-of bounds territory. That’s where sophomore Cody Meyers came up with a huge grab, flipping the ball back to Blackburn who was still lying on the court. The senior sprang to his feet, firing off a three-point bomb to tie the game with just 4.5 seconds left.
While Blackburn was getting hot, the situation the Panthers were in was far from good. Three players entered overtime with four fouls each while Agbaroji injured his leg late in the fourth and did not return. The result – a 9-0 run by the Wolves starting OT.
“We had all of our starters out. They all fouled out and Derick was hurt and they had all their starters still. It was just a mismatch I guess,” Blackburn said.
It wasn’t the senior sendoff Midlothian players had in mind but the two players who made the biggest impact did not leave the floor without some positives. Blackburn pointed out he and Agbaroji wanted to come out and show they would not back down no matter how tough the season has been.
Agbaroji was upset the team couldn’t get the win and the injury prevented him from finishing the game but was happy to see the senior duo get one last chance to make a little noise in front of the home fans.
“Well, me and Blaine have been playing together since our freshman year and it’s always been like that. I’ll come in with the first part and then he’ll come in and knock it out,” Agbaroji said. “When I play with him, I feel comfortable. When he plays with me, he feels comfortable. We told each other we’re never going to give up on each other and we haven’t yet.”