LANCASTER – If you were just looking at the teams postgame, you would have figured that the Runnin’ Indians had knocked off perennial power Lancaster.

While Waxahachie came up on the short end of the 73-64 final score Friday afternoon, there was a feeling of accomplishment in the Indians’ effort.

Lancaster (5-9, 2-0 in 15-4A) led by 16 at halftime and looked like it was going to just run away with the game in the second half, but a slew of fresh faces led Waxahachie’s storm back into the game as they pulled to within four with 45 seconds left, but couldn’t quite pull off the upset.

“That right there was probably the most fun I’ve had coaching a basketball game in 20 years because I had eight kids that wanted to be there and work hard,” Waxahachie coach Steve Weeks said. “They did it on both ends of the court and I didn’t have to coach effort for the first time in a long time.”

Three players, Dakota Strickland, Trevone Smith and Londyn Slaughter were all brought up to the varsity squad from either the freshman or JV squads Friday morning and may have given Waxahachie’s basketball program the shot in the arm it needs.

“I got to coach the game and not have to wonder if somebody is going to do their job or give you any effort,” Weeks said. “Those are things you shouldn’t have to worry about, and thanks to these eight guys, I didn’t.”

Slaughter recently moved to Waxahachie from Midlothian and finally got into a varsity game after missing the first 15 due to transfer paperwork. He started playing on the JV squad a week and a half ago and was instantly making a difference as he led the team with 13 points in his varsity debut.

Smith and Strickland were both playing on the freshman squad earlier this week, but got the call to the show Friday morning. Smith has been thrust to the starting point guard position and Strickland provided valuable minutes from the bench.

“We knew when Londyn was going to be able to play that he was going to help us immediately with his size and athletic ability,” Weeks said. “Trevone is the best point guard player we’ve had in a while. He made a few freshman mistakes, but he didn’t play scared in his first game at a tough place to play in Lancaster.”

The team has needed a point guard like Smith to lead the offense, which has struggled so far this year. The point position had been rotated between Paul Debase and Quinn Sargent, but neither of them suited up Friday afternoon.

“Trevone attacked, played great defense and hustled,” Weeks said. “That’s what you look for in a point guard. Someone who is tough, aggressive and shares the basketball.”

Weeks confirmed after the game that Smith will be staying with the varsity team for the rest of the season. Slaughter likely will as well, but he isn’t sure on Strickland.

“We have to reevaluate what we have,” Weeks said. “I think we can build something around Trevone, Londyn and Antoine (Taylor).”

Don’t forget the other young post player that played his best game of the season Friday afternoon, sophomore Lee Wheaton, who led the team with 20 points. 

The other main storyline to watch in this game was the return of Taylor to his former home. The junior played on Lancaster’s JV squad last season, but has plenty of friends still wearing orange and black. In his first game against Lancaster he put up 18 points thanks to five three-pointers.

“I think he had a little extra motivation,” Weeks said. “We got down early in the third, but he hit three threes in the third quarter to get us right back in it. This just shows you that when the kids play hard, good things can happen.”

Taylor knew coming in that he was going to get a hard time from his friends and former teammates.

“I heard them calling me out a little bit, but it wasn’t too bad,” Taylor said with a smile. “I think I just had a little something extra today. Having played in that gym before definitely helped.”

With dueling six-feet, four-inch sophomore posts in Wheaton and Slaughter, a freshman at point guard, a junior that can shoot lights out in Taylor and steady senior Qua-Darrious Waters, the team expects to turn things around this year and still have a very bright future.

“I think we’re in good shape and we’re about to turn this thing around,” Taylor said. “I think we proved today that we aren’t going to quit and we have a lot of weapons.”

The Runnin’ Indians (1-15, 0-2 in 15-4A) will look for at least their second win of the season at the Byron Nelson Classic this week, beginning Thursday. The tournament’s creators didn’t do Waxahachie any favors as their first round game will be against the state’s No. 4 4A team San Antonio Alamo Heights (13-1). 

District play resumes at 8 p.m. Jan. 4 at home versus Mansfield Legacy.