By Travis M. Smith | Ellis County Sports Sports
LORENA — The Waxahachie Runnin’ Indians had their way with the Belton Tigers in Tuesday’s 6A Region II bi-district championship.
Health-and-safety protocols and snowpocalypse be danged, too. Waxahachie nearly busted the scoreboard in its 99-62 victory.
The Runnin’ Indians had practiced just four times and played once over the past three weeks ahead of their playoff tilt in Lorena. Most of the starters sat in the second half of that lone game too, which was an 80-51 road victory against DeSoto on Feb. 12.
The regular season’s final three games were then washed, leaving (17-2) Waxahachie as the District 7-6A champion ahead of last week’s frigid temperatures and snowfall.
The Tribe then found out it’d be without second-leading scorer Jalen Lake (16.4PPG), a 6-foot-4 senior guard who has already signed to play collegiately at Colorado State. Lake was lost to a basketball-related injury (non-program) and is questionable for the remainder of the postseason.
Tuesday, though, was the Prince Banks show — especially the first half.
The junior guard not only entered the starting line-up and covered Lake’s points-per, but he also exceeded it — in the first half.
Banks finished the first half 9-of-9 from the charity stripe with a then-game-high 19 points. He ultimately poured in a game-high 21 points, despite not playing in the fourth quarter.
By the time the starters took a seat, Waxahachie held a 74-45 lead as the game headed into the last eight minutes.
Jordan Davis (9pts) and Matt Green (6pts) combined for five three-pointers in the fourth quarter to nearly outscore the Tigers as a tandem in the final frame. Waxahachie ultimately outpaced Belton 25-17 in the final frame to close out the win.
Oklahoma-signee CJ Noland netted three treys on his way to 18 points, while still-unsigned standout 6-foot-5 forward Montez Young threw home a few highlight dunks on his way to 14 points and 9 rebounds. V’Zarion Roberson also finished in double-digits with 12 points, which consisted of four first-half three-pointers.
Kaden Downs and JJ Johnson led Belton with 19 points, each.
The Runnin’ Indians used a pair of Noland fastbreak finishes — including a smooth one-handed jam from the right side on a Young assist — to quickly build a 7-0 lead. The run forced a Belton timeout with 6:14 to play in the first quarter.
The Runnin’ Indians continued their suffocating halfcourt defense to build a 12-0 lead. Young capped the scoring run with a monster (emphasis there) two-handed slam off a Hodge assist.
Belton then quickly reeled off a 10-2 scoring run to pull within four, 14-10.
A little later, Roberson’s second three-pointer of the night helped curb the Tigers’ scoring outburst and pushed the Runnin’ Indians ahead, 19-10, as the clock dipped under one minute to play in the first quarter.
Belton’s Kaden Downs (19pts) later banked home a prayer at the buzzer to send the game into the second frame with Waxahachie leading, 19-13.
Banks promptly opened the second quarter with a corner trey — his third — to put the Runnin’ Indians up nine.
Noland eventually hit a three from the left wing for a 14-point Waxahachie lead, 37-23, with just over three minutes to play in the first half.
The lead grew to 41-28 following a pair of Banks free throws with 1:44 remaining on the first-half clock.
Roberson later drilled a three-pointer from the right wing with 52 seconds showing to extend the Waxahachie lead to 44-31.
Noland then drove the lane, turned and found Banks for a wide-open three-pointer at the buzzer from the left-wing. The trey was his third of the first half.
Waxahachie led Belton, 47-31, after the ball rattled home.
Banks finished the first half 9-of-9 from the free-throw line with 19 points, while Roberson had 12 points (4 3s) at the half.
Belton relied heavily on its six first-half three-pointers to keep the game somewhat close.
Neither team began the second half exceptionally hot from the floor, as Waxahachie carried a 50-35 lead into the five-minute mark of the third quarter. A suddenly ticky-tack officiated game did not help either — especially after how free the players were allowed to play in the first half.
Noland drilled back-to-back three-pointers to push the Waxahachie lead to 22 points, 58-36, with 3:26 to play in the third.
As the offense picked up, a Pigford three put Waxahachie up, 69-43, as the clock dipped under 60 seconds.
Noland followed by muscling home two points in the paint to extend the Waxahachie lead. Christian O’Donnel then got a put-back to go to send the Runnin’ Indians into the fourth quarter comfortably on top, 74-45.
Davis started the fourth quarter in grand style for Waxahachie with a three-pointer — just as he has in several lopsided games before.
Davis later hit a second triple to put Waxahachie up, 80-48, with under six minutes to play in the final frame. He followed with a third on the Tribe’s ensuing possession.
Davis, Green, Darkuan King (4pts), Jacob Watson (4pts) and Kam Drummer (2pts) brought the game home over the final frame for the 99-62 6A Region I bi-district victory.
The Runnin’ Indians will face (17-9) Rockwall in the 6A Region II area championship at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Forney High School. Ticket and streaming details will be provided before tip-off. Ellis County Sports 1390AM/99.1FM will have the on-air call.
All photos by Sherry Milliken/Ellis County Sports Sports/@sherry_milliken
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith