Kingston, TN –
By Justin Braden
On senior night, The Midway Green Wave closed out their regular season with a 41-38 win over the Rockwood Tigers with a defensive performance that vindicated their loss to the Tigers on Monday of this week.
Both teams established solid defenses early, but it was Midway (10-15, 2-6 in 1A-District 4) that used a 1-2-2 zone to stifle the offense of Rockwood (16-6, 5-3 in 1A-District 4) in the first half, but the zone defense was not the original gameplan for the Green Wave heading into Friday night.
“We wanted to play man again. I started a senior that was injured so we went to the 1-2-2 so that he could be on the floor, and it seemed like it was working,” said Midway head coach Ron Treadway.
The 1-2-2 zone allowed Midway senior center Evan Lemons to get a start on senior night, but instead of pulling him out of the game and making a substitution, with the zone defense working well, Treadway was able to leave him in the entire game.
What the Green Wave inadvertently stumbled upon with the strategy was the containment of Rockwood senior point guard Ty Pryor, who hits many of his big shots from the top of, or the corner of the three-point line, but with this zone defense, Pryor was caught in a trap in the corners or had a guard facing up with him at the top of the arc.
Pryor dropped 34 points in Rockwood’s 78-69 win over Midway earlier in the week, but on Friday, the defense opened the game by shutting out his offense in the first half and forcing the ball into the hands of senior power forward Lucas Poland, who slipped through the lane of the defense twice in the first half.
Rockwood rotated senior guard Jaylon Reed into the offensive void left by Pryor when he was trapped, and Reed drained a three-pointer in the second quarter as the Tigers tried to generate offense, but Midway had an answer to every Rockwood score, with junior point guard Brennan Reed driving to the basket, or pulling up from mid-range in the first half.
Midway led 20-9 at halftime, but anyone who knows 1A-District 4 basketball knew what was coming in the second half. Rockwood head coach Paul Kamikawa made the adjustments needed to get his team back in contention, and Ty Pryor came out of the locker room ready to unload.
In the second half, Rockwood broke through the zone, by continuing to rotate Reed, who had now proven his shooting ability against the zone, over to the angle of the three-point line, allowing Pryor to set his shot from just left of the top of the arc and building an 8-0 run on back-to-back three-pointers before driving the lane and cutting the lead to 7.
“Rockwood, I think has the best player in the state. I think Ty Pryor, nothing against anyone else, but Ty Pryor is an outstanding basketball player,” said coach Treadway of Pryor’s 21-point performance on Friday night.
In the fourth quarter, Pryor dropped 11 points and cut the Midway lead to 1, sinking a clutch three-pointer with only 1:05 left in the game, but on the ensuing possession, Reed drove the lane for the Green Wave and extended the lead back to 3.
With 12 seconds left in the contest, Pryor pulled up his final three-point attempt of the game, but the shot bounced out of the rim, and Reed grabbed the final rebound of the night for Midway to seal the victory.
“We’re very excited to have a win over a quality opponent like this. It felt really good to beat this team. Rockwood is a hard matchup for us, and they are very good. This was our first win over a team that had a winning record.”
Midway is playing its best basketball of the season, and on Thursday, Midway will host Rockwood again in the semi-final round of the District 4A Tournament. Coach Kamikawa will have more answers to Midway’s defense, and the game may come down to which team can scheme better against their opponent's defense after the first game was a shootout and the second was a defensive stand.
MVP of the game – Ty Pryor. Despite the loss, Pryor’s 21-point performance was game-changing in the second half, and Midway's containment of him in the first half proved his value to
Rockwood's offense. The Tigers are a different team without his offensive presence.
Rockwood 4 5 13 16 - 38
Midway 10 10 11 10 - 41
Ty Pryor 21, Jaylon Reed 6, Jayden Davidson 4, Lucas Poland 4, Laken Jolly 3
Brennan Reed 14, Dalton Cowell 10, Evan Lemons 8, Peyton Steele 7, Cooper Queener 2,
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