In basketball, a 17-point lead with two minutes to play is about as safe as it gets.
Waxahachie had that and for a second, coach Damien Mobley said he felt comfortable.
“I felt like we had this in the bag. I definitely thought we had it in the bag,” Mobley said. “But I figured once we got into foul trouble with some key guys they were going to make a run.”
That run came and suddenly Mansfield Legacy had the ball down six with 32 seconds to go. The Broncos attempted a three-pointer that went long and the Indians got the rebound and salted away the final seconds of a 64-57 victory.
“I’ve seen games like this happen before. I think things would have gotten real tight if they made that three-pointer,” Mobley said. “We’re still in the midst of learning how to handle that kind of situation.”
With that cozy lead and minimal time left, the Indians could have held on to the ball and forced Legacy to foul if they wanted to. But Waxahachie never left its up-tempo style of play and that led to turnovers, which allowed the Broncos to get right back in the game.
“I actually wanted to see how the guys responded to that. There are some things we have to work on,” Mobley said. “I asked them to bring some heart and I could bring everything else. Winners know how to win and losers find a way to lose and they didn’t find a way to lose.”
The team came up huge at the free throw line in the game as it hit 27 of 30 free throws in the game to account for almost a third of its offense. Everyone was hitting at the line as juniors Londyn Slaughter and Nik Ranson went perfect at the charity stripe and K.J. Erskine only missed once. Ranson led all scorers with 26 points, Erskine added 15 and Slaughter scored 10.
Legacy had its share of free throw attempts as Waxahachie saw two players foul out and had two more end the game with four fouls, one away from disqualification. The Indians were playing the game with just eight players due to injuries and one more foul could have put the team in a bind.
“We had to use everybody tonight and I think they all played well. I’m proud of them because we used all eight,” Mobley said. “In a game like that, you need to be able to play everyone and be confident in them stepping up.”
One of the players that stepped up is senior Paul DeBase, who came off the bench to score five points and played excellent point guard until he ran into foul trouble.
Waxahachie got a pair of jolts early in the game to build its lead. The Indians were down 25-17 late in the second quarter when a 10-0 run gave Waxahachie a 27-25 lead at halftime.
Legacy started strong in the second half and took a 31-27 lead before another surge gave the Indians the lead for good. A 17-4 surge sparked by aggressive defense and buckets by Ranson.
With this win, the Indians have now done something they haven’t done in two years. Win eight games.
In the two years before Mobley’s arrival, Waxahachie won seven games total. The Tribe surpassed that total with the nail-biting finish, but the coach knows there’s more work to be done. He’s focused on a playoff berth, which is actually still in reach for the Indians (8-15, 3-7 in 15-4A).
“Mathematically, if we can get our hands on somebody, we’ve got an outside shot at making the playoffs,” Mobley said. “Right now, we’re in a four-way tie for fifth place.”
Waxahachie is tied with Ennis, Legacy and Red Oak for the fifth spot, but all four teams are three games behind Mansfield Lake Ridge and Arlington Seguin with four games to go. The odds are long, but if the Indians can win the rest of their games they will force a tie for the final spot.
Lake Ridge and Seguin play each other and Waxahachie plays both teams down the stretch.
“We have to beat Seguin on Friday. That’s the key to all of it,” Mobley said. “I’m not going to tell them the situation but even if we can’t get in, we can play spoiler for somebody else.”
Waxahachie hosts Seguin (11-11, 6-4 in 15-4A) at 8 p.m. Friday.