Hoops Preview

Midway teams harnessing competitive culture in 2021-22

By DONNELL COLEY
Sports editor
Posted 11/20/21

The Daily Record's "Hoops Preview" series stops in Spivey's Corner to check in on the revamped teams at Midway.

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Midway teams harnessing competitive culture in 2021-22

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SPIVEY’S CORNER — Matthew Bagwell's first season leading the Midway girls basketball team concluded with a state playoff appearance, capping a productive 9-5 campaign. 

A seven-game win streak near the closing stretch of the year catapulted his Lady Raiders to a second-place finish in the former East Central Conference standings. 

Returning all but two players from that squad, Bagwell is excited to continue grooming a young crop of talent. 

"I think this team is gonna play harder– play faster," he said following a recent practice.

“Last year, we kind of planted the foundation and now we’re just building on it, trying to make it bigger and better.”

Kris’Shyia McKoy is one of just four seniors and has led the Lady Raiders in scoring each of the past two seasons. The combo guard finished a shade under 11 points per game, while also pacing the group in assists and steals, en route to a first-team All-Record selection

“We’re still gonna look for her (McKoy) to put the ball in the hole and make some plays on the defensive end, try to get us into good opportunities to score,” Bagwell said.

 Meanwhile, the group's other returning senior starter, Rylie Williams, joined McKoy in posting double figures. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro softball signee also flashed her all-around athleticism, finishing second in rebounds and steals per game. 

 "She fills up the stat sheet. She outworks everybody and she's just the leader and the heart of what we do," Bagwell said. 

Meanwhile, Morgan Williams earned more minutes as the season progressed in just her first varsity stint. Now a sophomore, she moves into the starting point guard role and hopes to free up more scoring opportunities for McKoy.  

Bagwell says he's most encouraged by the defensive intensity shown in early practices, led by junior guard Mallory Baggett who he calls the leader on that end after harassing opposing ball-handlers and averaging 1.4 steals.

"The defense, in two weeks, looks better than it did all year last year," Bagwell said.

Midway moves into the newly-formed Southeastern Athletic Conference where it continues its rivalry with Clinton and adds new competitors like St. Pauls, who went undefeated last season– winning every game by double digits.

"They've heard a lot about the league. They've heard a lot about St. Pauls ... just keeping them confident about what we have and building off last year," Bagwell said. 

"I think we feel pretty good about where we are and we're looking to build on that, and look at that conference and give it a shot– go after it." 

Raiders ready to compete in Creech's second stint

The Midway boys basketball team hasn't qualified for a state playoffs bid since the 2016-17 season.

Matthew Creech was the coach of that Raiders squad and ahead of his second stint in Spivey's Corner, he sees a fire lit under a motivated mix of playmakers.

"It's been competitive. That's something we've got to be all year long. That's going to be the key to our success is, can we carry that competitive spirit in practices over into games," Creech said before a recent practice.  

Senior marksman Wyatt Holland leads all returners in scoring, averaging just over nine points per game a year ago.

The three-year varsity player and record-setting quarterback has taken over as the squad's primary vocal leader with the graduation of last season's leading scorer Tyler Godwin.  

Joining Holland on the wing are fellow upperclassmen Warren Naylor and Nate Smith, who both bring added energy and spark.

The team's junior class is highlighted by starting point guard Trey Gregory and reliable post player Israel Firstov-Cook. Gregory, who will sit the first couple weeks due to a lower body injury, led the Raiders in steals and Cook put in just shy of five points off the bench. 

Creech has been especially impressed with the depth at guard, saying the group can go six or seven deep with interchangeable pieces. 

Jamir McCrae and Casey Culbreth are among the talented sophomores that are expected to see quality minutes after leading Midway's junior varsity team to a conference championship last season. 

"You got a good group of guys that wants to get better, they're hungry," Creech said.

"I've been talking to them and they understand it's been five years since Midway has been a playoff basketball team. We're trying to change the culture, flip the script a little bit." 

He added that the team's first goal is to win a county championship, with games against Lakewood, Union and Hobbton on the nonconference slate. 

The Raiders welcome longtime rival Hobbton for the season opener on Monday, Nov. 22.

Donnell Coley can be reached at dcoley@mydailyrecord.com or 910 230-2040.

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