Boys Basketball

Middletown beats Winton Woods to reach D-I district final


SHARONVILLE — It was a battle of first-year head coaches Friday night at Princeton High School.

Bill Edwards Jr. and the Middletown Middies took on Mike Pilgrim and the Winton Woods Warriors in the Division I district semifinal.

In a back-and-forth affair, the nine-seeded Middies upset the three-seeded Warriors 46-39 sending Middletown to the district final at the Cintas Center next Sunday, March 10, against the winner of Centerville and Fairmont.

“We knew they had talent, but we knew we had talent,” Edwards told The Report following Friday night’s win. “We were confident in our guys. We have a lot of guys that are underrated and hungry.”

Cincinnati signee and 4-star forward Tyler McKinley shot out of a cannon for Winton Woods to start the game. He scored the Warriors’ first seven points, including a fadeaway jumper for two and a corner three on the following possession within the first minute of the game.

Middletown didn’t step down, however. The Middies responded on both sides of the ball taking an 8-5 lead early in the game. 

Michael Maldonado and Isaac Stamper both hit early threes to respond to McKinley’s scoring outburst, leading a 6-0 to get to that aforementioned 8-5 lead. 

But, whatever Middletown did offensively, they accomplished even more defensively. The Middies applied constant off-ball pressure to McKinley, denying him post-touches at all cost. Possession by possession would go by, and it seemed McKinley just wasn’t touching the ball. Middletown grew their lead to as large as nine before the first half ended.

“We knew Tyler was one of the best prospects in the state, the best player in the state,” Edwards explained.

“He’s going to get his. We just had to be solid. We wanted to make it tough for him. But we didn’t want the other guys to pop off… He started the game making some tough shots. And I was like, ‘Guys, if he makes those, we’ll live.’ But we dug down and we put bodies on them all night. Our wings are so athletic and they hustle.”

Those wings consist of Dae’Shaun Showes and Isaac Stamper, players who put pressure on McKinley but also closed out on Winton Woods’ shooters well forcing them to a 6/18 shooting night from beyond the arc. McKinley didn’t score in the second quarter and only finished the night with 10 points on 3/9 shooting from the field. 

Sean Harmon Jr. was aggressive for the Warriors, finishing with 11 points and 4/12 shooting, making 3/10 shots from beyond the arc. 

The Middies were led by Michael Maldonado and Jeremiah Landers offensively. The duo combined for 30 points with Maldanado putting together a perfect night from three converting all four of his long-range attempts, helping him finish with 14 points. 

While the momentum seemed to be in Middletown’s favor the majority of the game, Winton Woods would eventually come back and take the lead late in the fourth quarter. Seaonta Stewart Jr. converted a three giving the Warriors a 31-29 lead. As was the script of the game, Middletown responded by making a three of their own on the other end taking back the lead. 

The Middies didn’t fall behind again, stopping Winton Woods down the stretch and converting at the free throw line to put the game away. Jeremiah Landers finished with a game-high 16 points including the clutch free throws to seal Midlletown’s playoff victory.

“Being a Middletown alumnus and being a kid to take pride in my city, we just talked about bringing that back,” Edwards said after celebrating the win with his players. “We talked about our effort, we talked about getting in shape from day one. We talked about off-the-court stuff and guys have bought in completely and we’ve just taken it a day at a time.

“We’ve just been stacking days. We’ve had our ups and downs, but the guys have stayed the course and they just believe in what we’re doing.”

Middletown’s playoff upset proved that Edwards has the team he thought he had all season. He told The Report that there were multiple games in the Greater Miami Conference that he felt Middletown should have won, so topping Winton Woods and shocking many was the vindication Edwards and his players knew they had earned.

“We have our work cut out for us. We just gotta be ready. We’re gonna go back to the drawing board. We’re gonna recover. We’ll be ready.”

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