Midway traveled to Clinton on Thursday night to face the Dark Horses in a second round NCHSAA playoff match-up. The cross county rivals had met twice earlier in the season, with Clinton prevailing both times, but the Raiders came in with a purpose and made it clear early on that they had no plans on their season ending at the hands of the Dark Horses.
The Raiders could do no wrong, playing with an intensity that Clinton could not match, and ran away with the 85-60 win to advance to the third round of the state playoffs.
The Dark Horses took the lead at 9-4 in the early minutes before the Raiders warmed up and took absolute control of the contest. A rash of Dark Horse turnovers and poor shooting combined with Midway catching fire, resulted in a furious Raider comeback. By the end of the first quarter, the Raiders had taken a four point lead at 17-13, that they would never relinquish.
Midway built on their lead in the second quarter as Shyheim Small caught fire, coming off the bench and hitting 3 long range bombs. Ayden Canady added a couple of tough shots along the baseline. The Dark Horses continued to struggle to get a good shot and when they did, the ball just didn’t go through the hoop. By the halftime break, Midway had built a double digit lead at 37-24.
Things went from bad to worse for the Horses in the opening minutes of the second half. Midway went on a 9-0 run to open the half, taking a 46-24 lead at the 6:02 mark, and basically erased any doubt about the outcome.
Clinton’s struggles continued as the Horses went scoreless from the field for nearly five minutes to open the second half. They did not even get a shot off on several possessions.
The Dark Horses did show signs of life late in the third quarter when they forced a couple of Raider turnovers and converted easy baskets to get within 17 of the visitors. Midway, however, quickly calmed down and answered with a 3-pointer and 2 free throws to run the lead to 58-35 by the end of the third quarter.
Both teams emptied their benches early in the fourth quarter as Midway held a 30-point advantage on a couple of occasions with the late game substitutes seeming to score with ease. As time expired, a large contingency of Raider fans began a raucous celebration that would eventually spill onto the court at the end of the game.
Midway’s Paris Smith led all scorers with 29 points. Shyheim Small came off the bench for the Raiders to add 17 points with four 3 pointers. Marell Bullock and Greg Orr chipped in 7 points apiece for Midway.
Clinton was paced by J J Robertson’s 12 points, Xavier Howard added 8, Logan Batchelor had 7 points, Jeremiah Pope and Jaquan McLean each had six points for the Dark Horses.
After the game, Midway head coach Matthew Creech expressed great pride in his team’s play, saying “the last time we played this team we lead for thirty one minutes and fifty five seconds only to lose. We talked about playing all out for 32 minutes, and I thought from the gate Clinton was a little bit bigger, a little bit faster and a little bit stronger but our heart and desire to win tonight was unbelievable. The guys executed and played as well tonight as I have seen any team play in the post season.”
Creech continued to applaud his team’s execution adding, “we did a good job of controlling tempo early on, we got in our sets and showed patience and it paid off with some good back door cuts. It also helps when you have a guy shooting the ball like Shyheim Small did tonight. He provides a spark for us of the bench that is so valuable.”
The elated coach also praised the Raider fans and asked for their continued support, “I want to thank our fans for the unbelievable support they gave us tonight and ask them to come out and support us again on Saturday as we continue our journey.”
Clinton head coach Randy Jordan was obviously disappointed by the loss as he said, “you have to give credit to Midway, they came out and played hard from the tip to the final buzzer. They were hungrier than we were, we tried everything we could think of, played different personnel combinations, changed defenses, we just picked the wrong night and the wrong team to play our worst game of the season against.” Jordan continued by praising his players, particularly the seniors, adding “this loss does not take away from what these kids have accomplished this year, especially our six seniors. They won 19 games, a conference tournament championship and a Christmas tournament, I am just proud to have worked with them and been a part of this special group.”
The second round win improves the Raiders record to 17-10 overall and sets up a third round game on Saturday night against number one seeded Farmville Central. Clinton wraps up their season with a 19-9 overall record, going 10-4 in Four County Conference play.
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