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Tuesday, March 3, 2010   Waxahachie Daily Light   7

Photo by Gary Puckett/Special to the Daily Light

Midlothian guard Zach Hofstad (42) tries to fend off pressure from Red Oak’s D.J. Brady (23) during Monday’s regional quarterfinal game. The Hawks won 56-51 to advance to the regional tournament in Garland this weekend. Red Oak will face Pinkston at 6 p.m. on Friday at the Garland Special Events Center.

Ellis County classic Panthers, Hawks lock up in playoff battle as Red Oak advances By ALEX RILEY

By ALEX RILEY

Daily Light sports writer

MANSFIELD – An overflow crowd of fans looked on as Red Oak and Midlothian squared off in regional quarterfinals of the boys basketball playoffs with the winner advancing to the regional tournament this weekend. It was billed as a clash of two surging teams with less than 20 miles in between them. It did not disappoint. In a back-and-forth contest featuring defensive stands, mental mistakes and huge emotional swings, it was the Hawks that came out with a 56-51 win over the Panthers to advance in the playoffs. “We’re the underdog in our whole region, everybody looking at little Red Oak like they can’t do nothing,” Red Oak senior guard Dominique Harris said. “All I’ve got to say is look at us now, we’re going to keep it moving.” When the regular season concluded, the Hawks (249) and Panthers (21-12) were on five- and three-game win streaks respectively. But on this night, it was the team that could capitalize on the most mistakes that would get the upper hand. Known for its pressing defense, Red Oak hit the Midlothian offense with full-court pressure early and often in the first half as the team forced 12 turnovers. But, converting those into points wasn’t as easy at it had been in the past. The Hawks missed on 24 shot attempts in the first half as the Panthers held a 27-24 halftime lead. “They played a great first half and we played a flat out terrible first half,” Red Oak coach Preston Foster said. “We couldn’t make a shot, couldn’t make lay-ups, they were shooting great and for us to still be that close, we knew at halftime that we still played bad but we’re right there, we’ve still got a chance.” While the Hawks were struggling, Midlothian was finding success on offense when it didn’t turn the ball over. A pass from Trent Morgan to Cameron Lowman for a jumper put the team up 2011 early in the second period. But six straight possessions without a point turned the game around allowing the Hawks to whittle that advantage to three at the break. The shooting woes carried over into the third period as six of the Panthers first nine shots missed. That momentum swing went right into the Hawks’ corner as D.J. Brady stepped up for a 3-pointer to break a 34-all deadlock and give Red Oak a 37-34 lead. Midlothian would respond

Contest between big men lives up to hype Daily Light sports writer

Photo by Gary Puckett/Special to the Daily Light

Members of the Red Oak boys basketball team hoist the regional quarterfinal trophy after Monday’s 56-51 win over Midlothian at Mansfield Timberview. as Eddie Johnson and Zach Hofstad hit for back-to-back baskets on the inside that gave the team a 38-37 lead with 2:20 left to go. Hofstad would hit again with little time left in the third period to give the Panthers a 42-41 lead. But a Domonique Bonner rebound and putback gave the Hawks a 43-42 lead just before the end of the third. And it would be an advantage they would not give back. Aided by the Panthers’ inability to hit from close range, Red Oak went on a 10-0 run to take a 51-42 lead. “We had some opportunities there when it was close and even when we were ahead we missed them,” Midlothian coach Glenn Hartson said. “I don’t know, we missed a lot of lay-ups, guard play wasn’t very good tonight.” The bleeding stopped for the Panthers when Johnson banked a shot off glass to make it 53-46. A turnover and offensive foul on Red Oak put Midlothian right back in the thick of things as Blaine Blackburn connected on a pair of free throws with 2:45 left to make it a five-point game. A 10-second count against Red Oak gave the Panthers a chance to cut into the deficit yet again as Lowman hit a shot off the glass to make it 55-51 with 1:24 left in the game. After free throw misses on the other end gave Midlothian a shot at making it a one-possession game, Red Oak senior post player Earl Graves stepped up for a block that he then tracked down for the save. Despite the effort, Red Oak missed on the other end setting up a final chance for

Midlothian – 51 Red Oak – 56 Leading scorers Midlothian: Eddie Johnson 14, Derek Agbaroji 11, Blaine Blackburn 10 Red Oak: D.J. Brady and Earl Graves 13, Gaylon Edwards 12, Domonique Bonner 11 Score by period Midlothian: 16 11 15 9 Red Oak: 9 15 21 11

Midlothian to get back in with 49.7 seconds left. That hope went by the wayside as Red Oak’s Gaylon Edwards came up with a steal to seal the victory with less than 10 seconds remaining. “It’s tough when you’re succeeding against the press and you have open lay-ups and just can’t connect on them. It’s hard to go back on defense and play. It’s just a tough thing to do,” Hofstad said. With the victory, the Hawks move on the regional tournament at the Garland Special Events Center on Friday to take on Pinkston at 6 p.m. The victor in that game will face the winner of Kimball and Lancaster on Saturday at 2 p.m. for a trip to the state tournament in Austin. While the Hawks still have a lot of work to get in to the state bracket, being one of the last 16 teams in the state still playing has them believing they can accomplish anything. “It makes it great. I want to end my year with a bang. We’re not taking nothing less than a win,” Harris said. Contact Alex at alex.riley@wninews.com or at 469517-1456.

MANSFIELD – At first glance, they only appear slightly different. But once Earl Graves and Eddie Johnson start playing, its apparent the two players have entirely different skill sets. Graves, the 6-foot-6 post player for Red Oak, is a shooter with touch and range to spare. Johnson, the 6-foot-4 Midlothian power forward, is physically aggressive underneath the basket and has a knack for battling other players for position and the ball. On Monday, they got a chance to square off. Though Graves and the Hawks got the 56-51 win in the regional quarterfinal bout, there was no doubt that both players had seen the best of what each other had to offer and each was impressed with what the other could do. “I thought it was a pretty good match-up. Their guy hit some mid-range jumpers. Eddie played good, rebounding and doing his job,” Midlothian coach Glenn Hartson said. As he has done all season, Graves stood out as one of the primary scoring options for the Hawks as his 13 points tied for the team lead. He scored the first five points of the games for Red Oak, including a 3-pointer, and went on to hit a big pullup jumper in the third period that tied the game at 34. Not to be outdone, Johnson led all scorers with 14 points thanks to his tenacity underneath the basket. With the game knotted up at 20 in the second period, Johnson connected on a hook shot to give the Panthers a 22-20 lead which they would keep through the half. His lay-up with 2:51 left in the third period trimmed the Red Oak lead to one and kept Midlothian in the game. It didn’t take Graves long

The road to Austin... Red Oak will travel to the Garland Special Events Center on Friday to play Pinkston at 6 p.m. If the Hawks win, they will face the winner of Kimball and Lancaster on Saturday at 2 p.m.

to notice the difference. “I think he’s more of a power player, can take it inside and I can post-up, take the jump shot, take the 3,” Graves said. The biggest difference in the night might have been what each player provided on the defensive end and when they provided it. With Graves having a more perimeter-based game, Johnson made a living in the paint as the senior grabbed 18 rebounds in the game but only eight in the second half. Johnson had seven boards in the first period as the Panthers capitalized on second chance opportunities. They weren’t so lucky in the second half. “(The match-up) played good. I think we were both going at it on both sides. It was just we didn’t hit enough shots to win the game so that’s the difference. Everybody worked hard and put their heart into the game,” Johnson said. “Nobody left with no re-

grets, we all played hard and you can’t blame them for that. If it happens it happens I guess.” While Graves only had six boards on the night, his biggest moment came with less than a minute left as the senior would block a Midlothian shot attempt that ultimately turned the momentum towards the Hawks. Though the team was unable to connect on the other end, the stop helped keep the Panthers off the board for the remaining seconds and sealed the win. It was a plan Red Oak had been intent on using all along. “We knew that if our big man took care of his business that their guards couldn’t stop our guards so we knew we had the game won if we went with that game plan,” Red Oak senior Gaylon Edwards said. Contact Alex at alex. riley@wninews.com or at 469-517-1456.

Photo by Gary Puckett/Special to the Daily Light

Midlothian’s Eddie Johnson, left, and Red Oak’s Earl Graves, right, faced off against each other in the post during Monday’s playoff game. Johnson finished with 14 points while Graves had 13 as the Hawks got a 56-51 win.


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