By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
Tuesday should’ve been a quick and tidy victory for the No. 3 Waxahachie Runnin’ Indians at home against the Mansfield Tigers.
At least, that’s what the statistics on paper would’ve suggested.
Instead, neither Waxahachie nor Mansfield led by more than five points during any point in the District 7-6A contest. The potential blowout, instead, quickly evolved into a true to form back-and-forth affair between two hungry teams inside Mike Turner Gymnasium.
And, boy, was it fun — down to the last second and gasp.
Waxahachie (21-3, 4-0 in 7-6a) entered the game as the third-ranked team in the TABC Class 6A poll, which is the highest-ever ranking for the program over its two years in the state’s highest classification. The Tribe also walked onto the hardwood as winners of their past nine games.
After a few nail-biting moments, that win streak extended to 10 with a 57-56 home victory in a District 7-6A thriller against Mansfield.
“That was unbelievable,” Waxahachie head boys’ basketball coach Greg Gober told KBEC Sports after the last-second win. “We haven’t been through something like that in a long time. They (Mansfield) challenged us in every way and we answered the bell at the end.”
He added, “We put ourselves in some bad situations, but, in the end, we fought through it and made some plays that we had to make.”
To save a lot of reading through buckets and man-to-man defense, we will go ahead and skip forward to when Waxahachie entered the fourth quarter down 40-38.
The Tigers quickly built a 43-38 lead against one of the state’s 6A powers in that final stanza.
At that point in the contest, the Runnin’ Indians had yet to establish any real rhythm on offense. The pace was odd, to say the least.
Junior guard CJ Noland eventually scored his 13th and 14th points to pull Waxahachie within two, 43-41, with 5:40 to play in the fourth quarter.
Noland then found Sammy Kaoud a little later for an easy layup in transition to put Waxahachie up, 45-44, only to have Andrew Iyamah, a 6-foot-5 junior forward, answer right back for a 46-45 Mansfield lead.
Kaoud then responded. His two points in the lane gave the Runnin’ Indians a one-point lead, 47-46, with 4:20 to play.
That lead held into a Gober timeout with 3:57 remaining and Waxahachie in possession.
Noland drove the lane out of the timeout and slipped in a runner to extend the Waxahachie lead to three points. He then stole a crosscourt pass on the Mansfield end and quickly ran his total to 20 points for a 51-46 Waxahachie lead.
Mansfield, however, was not ready to fold. A three-pointer from the corner inched the Tigers three points closer as the clock ran under 2:57 to play in the fourth quarter.
Noland added a five-foot floater out of the timeout, only to have Drew Crippen drill a deep triple to cut the Waxahachie lead to one, 53-52.
An empty Runnin’ Indian possession led to a Mansfield turnover and then a Waxahachie turnover in the backcourt with 1:18 showing on the fourth-quarter clock.
BJ Francis eventually extended the Runnin’ Indian lead when he laid home two points following a steal for a 55-52 advantage with 36 ticks left on the clock.
This game, however, would not be put away easily.
Iyamah promptly ran his point total to 17 points with a quick bucket in the low post. It was, though, just two points and left the Runnin’ Indians ahead by one, 55-54, with 20 seconds to play.
Mansfield then stole the inbound and scored to take a one-point lead.
The bucket stunned the standing-room-only crowd in green — but only briefly.
AJ Russ was fouled on a three-point attempt on the ensuing Waxahachie possession with seven seconds to play.
He missed the first foul shot and then drained the second to tie the game at 56-all.
Russ then tickled the twine for the eventual game-winner on his third attempt.
By converting on two-of-his-three attempts at the charity stripe, Russ put the Runnin’ Indians up one, 57-56, with 6.4 seconds to play.
Preston Hodge then stepped up almost as big when he deflected the Mansfield inbound pass — off of a Tiger.
Waxahachie followed by unsuccessfully inbounding the ball from its own end of the court — twice. The third inbound toss saw the ball go out of bounds without being touched and gave the Tigers an inbound opportunity with 5.3 seconds to play.
Thankfully, and almost unexplainably, the ensuing inbound resulted in a fumble possession, a half-hazard shot that clanged off of the rim with no chance of going in, and Mansfield turnover as the clock ran to zero.
The Indians exhaled and escaped with the 57-56 home victory.
“We all struggled early. We all struggled early,” Gober said after the win. “But late in the game, we had a tremendous effort from a lot of people like Preston Hodge with his tremendous defense, and CJ made some clutch baskets. AJ Russ also made some big-time free throws. We just made enough plays as a team at the end.
“[…] Just like I’ve said before, anyone can beat anyone, and if you don’t come ready to play and give your best effort, then anyone can beat anyone in this district.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Noland led all scorers with a game-high 20 points for the Runnin’ Indians, while Francis scored 13, Jalen Lake had eight, and Kaoud and AJ Russ each tallied seven. KB Jackson rounded out the Waxahachie scoring with two points.
Iyamah and Crippen led the Mansfield Tigers, who are 2-2 in 7-6A play, with 17 points, each.
Waxahachie will now face No. 15 Grand Prairie at 7:30 p.m. Friday on the Gophers home court. Grand Prairie will be fresh off of a 45-43 road victory against No. 23 DeSoto.
All photos by Fred Phipps/KBEC Sports
Fred Phipps/KBEC Sports contributed to this report.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith