CYPRESS — Waxahachie, take notice: the Runnin' Indians can hoop.
After falling one-point shy of a trip to the state tournament last season, Waxahachie is clearly on a mission — and state or national rankings will not deter the confidence of head coach Greg Gober and company. Those worried about any lingering effects of the regional finals loss to Mansfield Timberview one year ago can take solace in a second-place finish in the stacked field at the 8th annual Houston Methodist Cy-Hoops Invitational over the weekend.
Waxahachie defeated Harker Heights (88-57), Cypress Creek (70-57) and 6A No. 1 Cypress Falls (75-67) at the Berry Center in Cypress. The win over Cypress Falls handed the program — which entered as the No. 2 (computer) and No. 6 (Xcellent) team in the MaxPreps national polls — its first loss in 37 games.
The Runnin' Indians then fell to Texas Association of Basketball Coaches' 6A No. 2 Denton Guyer in the championship game 77-71.
The tournament featured nine teams ranked in the top 25 of their respective TABC polls. The Class 6A field consisted of No. 1 Cypress Falls, No. 2 Denton Guyer, No. 3 Austin Westlake, No. 4 Dekaney and No. 10 Wagner. Class 5A featured No. 1 (10-2) Waxahachie, No. 5 Port Aransas Memorial and No. 22 Ozen, while Silsbee entered as the top-ranked team in Class 4A.
Entering his second year in Waxahachie, Gober will be the first to admit that the road back to a regional tournament or beyond will not be an easy one. He is also quick to note that, despite returning the majority of last season's team, no two teams are created equal.
"Even just losing Xavier [Thompson] and a couple of those guys, it changes the whole complexity of it. But even if they had all come back it still would've been an entirely different team because they have all grown and matured," he explained. "It would've been different anyway. Now we have a few new guys, and you have to start over. You have to create your own history and make your own mark."
Gober also noted that this year already feels a little different than last year, too.
"It is more enjoyable because they worked so hard and they already understand what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. You are not having to spend all of your time explaining that. They understand that the 'standard is the standard,' and that is not my quote is from Nick Saban or Mik Tomlin or whoever. But the standard is the standard and they understand that."
If any skeptics do remain, all it takes to jump on board with the program is watching the tail end of one Wednesday practice — or any practice really — to see just how much the Runnin’ Indians care for each other, the coaching staff, and the game of basketball.
And it's obvious they have a lot of fun doing all three.
"That's a big part of it," Gober said. "Chemistry is so misunderstood and underemphasized. Chemistry is really what makes things work, even though so many people think the X's and O's make wins happen, and but it's relationships and chemistry that make this thing go. And these boys like playing with each other and they are very unselfish. But they look for each other sometimes to a fault more than they do to themselves."
Waxahachie fell behind 18-11 in the first quarter against MaxPreps' national No. 1 Denton Guyer. The Runnin' Indians then found themselves down 37-25 at the half.
Behind a team-high 25 points from Montre Gipson and 22 more by Mar'Qualen Grant, the Indians battled back to outscore Denton Guyer 23-17 in the fourth quarter. Waxahachie eventually fell 77-71 in the tournament championship.
Larry Wise chipped in 14 points, and JT Warren had eight.
The Runnin' Indians shot 51 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the arc as a team.
Gipson led the team with four points, and he, Wise and Grant each dished out three assists.
The Cypress Falls Eagles had not lost a basketball game in 37-consecutive tries.
That was until Saturday afternoon at the Berry Center. The Runnin' Indians outscored the Eagles 27-20 in the fourth quarter for the 75-67 win.
Grant led all Waxahachie scorers with 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field and 4-of-7 from behind the arc. Gipson added 20 points and six rebounds, while Wise had 16 points and Warren finished with 12.
Wise added five assists, while Mekai Pope had four, and Grant and Gipson each recorded three.
A 16-8 run in the second quarter lifted the Runnin' Indians to a 70-57 win over Cypress Creek Friday evening and into the tournament semifinals.
Gipson and Pope each scored 22 points in the win on better than 60-percent shooting from the field. Wise added 13 points, and Warren finished with 10.
Wise also led the team with eight rebounds and added six assists. Grant dished out a team-high seven assists. Gipson and Grant finished with four and three steals, respectively.
Waxahachie returns to the court for the National Hoop-Fest, held Saturday, Dec. 16 at Lancaster High School, against Chicago Simeon. The Illinois high school checks in at No. 10 in the MaxPreps top-25 Xcellent national poll. Tipoff is at 5:30 p.m.
And, wherever the Runnin' Indians end up in any state or national poll, is perfectly OK with Gober.
"For me, I know it is a big target because every time you play if you have been successful then someone is wanting to get you so that they can utilize some of that success in their own goals. The fun part of it is, all the sudden you go from being the one hunting everybody, and now they are hunting and chasing you," Gober said. "So you have to turn around and fight every now and then. You can't always let somebody chase you. Sometimes you still have to be the hunter."
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith