Three weeks ago, Waxahachie head boys' basketball coach Greg Gober said his team should embrace the target that comes with a national and state ranking.
Tuesday night his Runnin' Indians had their first District 10-5A test wearing the mark against Mansfield Summit. They passed.
"The thing about it is, they don’t measure a win by how pretty it is or how ugly it is, a win is still a win. We have to understand that and figure out a way to be better," said Gober after the 57-41 win. "There are a lot of things we should have improved upon and, again, we have every opportunity in the world to get better. We just need to do a better job."
After shooting 27 percent from behind the arc in Saturday's 66-59 loss to MaxPreps national No. 12 Chicago Simeon, the Runnin' Indians shot 9-of-24 (37 percent) from deep Tuesday against the Jaguars. They also converted on 6-of-8 (75 percent) from the free throw line.
"The first half we still shot pretty poorly but the second half we cleaned it up quite a bit. The shots were better shots from people at the spots that they like on the court. They weren’t forced shots. Our free throws were better. We were too loose with the ball and had way too many turnovers, too.”
With under a minute to go in the first quarter, a skip pass found Qua Grant in the right corner for a wide-open three-pointer and 19-9 Runnin’ Indian advantage.
The 10-point lead held for the first two minutes of the second quarter until Mekai Pope drilled a triple from the right-elbow extended to push Waxahachie ahead by 13 points, 25-12.
The Jaguars then pieced together a 9-4 run over the next four and a half minutes to pull within three possessions, 29-21, with 1:42 on the first-half clock.
Tre Gipson took the rock into the lane shortly after, drew the foul and got the layup to fall to start an and-one opportunity. He promptly converted to put the Runnin’ Indians back up by double digits, 32-21.
The Runnin’ Indians carried a 32-23 lead into the halftime locker room, but Larry Wise quickly drained a triple from the top of the key for a 12-point lead to start the third quarter scoring.
The Runnin' Indian lead ballooned as big as 16 points in the third quarter. Yet, Summit remained pesky enough on both ends of the court to keep the game within 10 points as the quarter closed, 41-31.
JT Warren scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to pull the Runnin' Indians out of their third-quarter offensive lull. Summit quickly answered with a three-pointer to temporarily negate Warren's triple.
Waxahachie led 46-34 with 5:35 to play.
A second Warren three-pointer in the fourth quarter extended the Runnin' Indian lead to 51-34 with 4:07 on the clock. He then reeled off four more points faster than his name could be announced over the PA.
When Warren exited the game with 52.7 seconds to play, he had a game-high 21 points. Twelve of those points came in the fourth quarter to build a comfortable 57-41 Waxahachie lead.
"It was his birthday and up until that point, he sort of struggled. It came to the point of either get it done or get out. He chose to get it done," said Gober of the 6-foot-3 junior guard. "It was really good, and I was glad to see that out of him. It just took him a while to be able to celebrate [his birthday].”
It would also be the final score, as Waxahachie dribbled out the clock for a 1-0 start to district play.
In addition to Warren's 21 points and five rebounds, Tre Gipson finished with 14 points, six rebounds and four assists. Qua Grant added seven points to his three boards, four assists and three steals, while Larry Wise also added seven points.
Demani Richardson scored four points, Pope finished with three points and Steron Stirgus chipped in one.
As a team, the Runnin' Indians collected 10 offensive rebounds and committed 16 turnovers.
Next up for the Runnin’ Indians is the 60th annual Diamond Anniversary Whataburger Classic Tournament Dec. 28-30. Waxahachie begins the tournament with North Crowley at 7 p.m. in the double-elimination tournament. The Runnin' Indians are in the Orange Division, which is held primarily at W.G. Thomas Coliseum.
More information on the tournament, including ticket prices, game times and brackets can be found at www.whataburger-bbt.org.
“Those games will be monster games,” Gober said. “[…] We will be right back in the fire, and that will get us ready for that next district game and hopefully let us understand what this district is about.”
NEED TO IMPROVE
With the Indian football season now over, the Runnin' Indians are at full-strength for the first time since beginning their 2017-18 campaign. The extra bodies will be a blessing to the Tribe as soon as everyone fits into their new roles, Gober explained.
“We have a lot more players now than we are used to when we were playing with eight guys. Now we have 11. Trying to play all of those guys, get into a groove, and get everyone going and playing faster, because if we are going to be able to play more people, then we have to play harder. During this time we have to figure out how to do that. And that goes for everybody — the guys who were in basketball and the guys who came from football — we all need to get in better shape.”