The Rebels would also need to play impressive defense to combat the size advantage Mount Hermon was bringing.
And, as it would turn out, it would need a comeback win that its fans will be talking about for days and its younger guns to step up to pull off another win.
The Rebels did, and beat number 13 seed Mt. Hermon 66-50 to move on to the quarterfinals.
“I’m proud of all my guys,” said Briley. “It was total effort and just wanting it… It was just fun to watch. It was great effort by kids, you admire that and you don’t see that often nowadays.”
A shaky start was not in the cards Tuesday night as the first quarter belonged to the Rebels. The renewed energy and typical full court pressure that Midland fans and opponents have become accustomed to were present and played a big role in the Rebels picked up an early 5-2 lead. The defensive pressure also led to a lot of steals throughout the first quarter. Suddenly, Midland found itself up 9-2 after a layup and steal and layup by Andrew Hains and forcing Mt. Hermon to call a timeout. Even when the Yellow Jackets began sinking shots, Midland would answer and at the end of the first frame, the Rebels found itself ahead by seven with the home crowd firmly behind them.
Then the brick wall hit for Midland, Allen Fontenot found himself dealing with the same problem that’s plagued him over the last few weeks; a nagging groin injury that would end up sidelining him yet again for a half. Meanwhile, the remaining Rebels’ shots were not falling and Mt. Hermon’s were and the Yellow Jackets were capitalizing on its second chance opportunities, its defensive rebounds and its foul shot opportunities. The 15-5 second quarter run gave Mt. Hermon a halftime lead of three.
Early in the third, things were not looking much better for Midland either. Mt. Hermon began the quarter where it left off at halftime. Fontenot tried to give it another go as well, but, as Briley pointed out after the game, he was on one leg and the game appeared to be slipping away. Midland called a time out and a reinvigorated Rebels team took the floor.
“It just looked bad and we looked like we were about to crumble,” said Briley. “I told them ‘Look, Allen’s gone, forget about Allen. If y’all want to see Allen again, y’all are going to have to win. Pick it up.’ And they did.
“Even in the first half, that’s how we got the lead. They made mistakes, they threw the ball away and I knew if we could just take the ball away we could win.”
Confidence began to swirl as Mt. Hermon’s miscues kept Midland’s hopes alive and some well-timed steals and Michael Primeaux sunk several free throws. A perfect storm was brewing and Midland had the opportunity to chip away at the nine point deficit it was facing. As time wound down in the third, the Rebels pulled within two points, and the additional home bonus returned as the crowd appeared to be reawakened at the start of fourth.
“We started getting some steals and we got a little momentum,” said Briley. “And I think I could see it in Chase and Jake and Darren, they got a little confidence. They were in the game early and they were scared to death, but you could just see the difference that they had confidence.
“We hustled and we started to get a few breaks, a few balls bouncing our way, the easy stuff and it just worked out well.”
The Rebels’ big offensive rally in the third also seemed to add a little energy on its defensive side as well. In the first minute of the fourth quarter Midland tied then regained the lead and once again worked to control the game’s tempo—full court defense and slow offensive series. The Yellow Jackets would tie and pull within two multiple times during the first half of the final quarter, but Midland began pulling away in the last three minutes and for the final two minutes all Mt. Hermon could do was foul to try and gain extra possessions. And, despite a bad night from the foul line, 19 for 32, Midland’s players were making some of those final free throws and increasing the lead.
Briley also gave Fontenot credit who, despite the injury was “a leader.”
“I didn’t know going into the game what would happen with Allen, he actually did more than I expected tonight,” he said. “But he couldn’t finish. So I had to make the decision to take Allen out. It turned out to be the right decision and I’m just glad it was.
“Even though he was out, he was still a good leader. He was still a leader to those young guys and pulling for them. I was proud of him and proud of all my guys tonight.”
The Rebels had four players in double digits, Hains with 13, Primeaux with 12, Chase Vincent with 11 and Fontenot with 10. Rounding out Midland’s scorers were Jake Gautreaux with eight points and Alan Vondenstein and Darren Arceneaux with six each.
The Rebels have had to look to the hot hand all season, but the come-from-behind victory and the way the younger members of the team stepped up is a big boost of confidence for the team as it now turns its attention to the next game.
“I think it’s going to help us for the future,” said Briley. “I think it’s going to help us for the next game and next year. The guys were going to have to step up if we were going to win this game and they did.”
Mt. Hermon had seven players record buckets, three of which hit the double digit mark; Silas Ladner and Montrail Coleman each had 13 points and Kyle Jarrell with 11. The Yellow Jackets remaining four players scored a combined 13 points.
Midland will play the Class B five seed Castor Friday night in Midland as Castor picked up the 90-63 victory over Simsboro Tuesday.
“I’d like to get another one (win), why stop now?” said Briley.