The showdown between Waxahachie and Mansfield Timberview was inevitable, albeit most thought it would not unfold until 2018 during the District 10-5A slate.
Thanks to the 60th annual Whataburger Basketball Tournament, the Runnin’ Indians and Wolves met on the court for the first time since Timberview clung to a one-point win in last season’s 5A regional championship.
Timberview took round one with a 67-60 win in the championship of the heralded invitational but make no mistake about it: the Runnin’ Indians and their coaching staff were not all too pleased with the result. Frustration was evident on each of their faces as they watched Timberview pose for with the first-place trophy Saturday, Dec. 30 inside the gymnasium at Birdville ISD’s W.G. Thomas Coliseum.
“What we have to take from this is that every game you have to bring everything you’ve got or you are going to end up coming up short,” Waxahachie head basketball coach Greg Gober said. “Those games that are coming up, from this point on, they all matter and they are all district games. We have 13 of them left, and we are going to find a way to play them. We are guaranteed to play [Timberview] at least two more times and two more times against everybody in our district. It is going to be tough.”
Gober added, “It’s an honor to get invited [to the Whataburger Basketball Tournament] because you have players who represent themselves in a manner in which people want to see them play and how they play. It’s a great thing for the players and the community, and for Waxahachie. We are trying to get back to a level where people want us to be around.”
Though the Runnin’ Indians held the lead for most of the first half, Timberview pieced together a 14-2 run to end the second quarter up 30-22 on the Tribe. Waxahachie then outscored the Wolves 16-12 in the third quarter to pull within four points.
Much as they had done all weekend, the Runnin’ Indians mounted a late comeback in the fourth quarter, highlighted by an acrobatic, four-point play by senior guard, Tre Gipson.
Yet, the Wolves ultimately won the game at the free throw line. Timberview entered the bonus with 1:44 to play in the ballgame and then converted on 12-of-17 from the charity stripe to outpace the Runnin’ Indians 25-22 in the fourth quarter for the 67-60 win.
“It is hard to come back when they are hitting shots, dunking them, and hitting their free throws,” Gober explained. “We did not finish some shots that we could have finished, but we were just totally gassed. The easy thing to do would be to play more people, but the hard thing is you are not here when that always happens. We are going to do what we have to do with our guys. It was tough. We fought it, and we are all going to grow from it.”
Each team began the game with a clear focus on ball control, and the scoreboard reflected it. Waxahachie held a 4-3 lead after a split trip to the free-throw line for Timberview as the clock dipped under four minutes to play in the first quarter.
Larry Wise drilled a transition three-pointer a few possessions later for a 7-4 Runnin’ Indian lead, but the Wolves answered right back to tie the game at 7-all. JT Warren converted the first two Waxahachie free throws of the evening with 2:04 to play in the quarter for 9-7 Runnin’ Indian advantage.
The score was tied at nine as the clock dipped under 40 seconds and just after Timberview was called for its third travel of the evening. Qua Grant drove the lane and got a nice up-and-under layup to go but Timberview’s Isaac Likekele, a 6-foot-4 guard committed to Fresno State, answered with a three-ball at the buzzer for a 12-11 Wolves advantage at the end of the first quarter.
Buckets by Grant and Warren opened up a quick three-point lead for the Runnin’ Indians to start the second quarter.
With 3:13 to play in the half, Likekele made a perfect trip to the line to give the Wolves their first lead of the quarter, 18-17, but Wise absorbed a foul on the ensuing Waxahachie possession and converted the and-one for a 20-18 Runnin’ Indian advantage.
Sparked by an offensive rebound, the Wolves then pieced together a 10-0 run over the next two minutes and change for a 26-20 lead with less than 90 seconds to play in the half.
A Gipson layup over a pair of defenders ended the Timberview run, but the Wolves got a transition basket to go in the final seconds to take a 30-22 lead into the halftime locker rooms.
Gipson finished the half as the leading scorer for the Runnin’ Indians with eight points, and Warren had six.
Waxahachie came out of the halftime locker room with a more tempo on the offensive end of the court and promptly reeled off a 6-0 run, capped with a Grant turnaround jumper from the elbow that forced a Timberview timeout. Grant then drilled a deep three-pointer on the next Runnin’ Indian possession to pull the Tribe within one, 32-21, with a little over four minutes to play in the third quarter.
A few possessions later, Warren popped the net with a corner three to help negate a 4-0 Timberview run and keep the Runnin' Indians within two, 36-34.
Timberview continued its offensive pace though, fueled by Waxahachie turnovers, to take a 40-34 lead into a Gober timeout with 1:34 on the third-quarter clock.
The quarter closed with Mekai Pope laying a baseline, reverse layup off of the glass and Grant using a finger-roll for another two points in at the buzzer.
Timberview clung to a four-point cushion, 42-38, as the two teams headed into the fourth quarter.
The Wolves quickly extended their lead to eight points, highlighted by a two-hand dunk in transition by Likekeke.
The eight-point lead fluctuated at times but held as the clock ran under five minutes to play. It then grew to nine points after a pair of Timberview transition buckets followed a Wise corner three.
Timberview called a timeout, leading 56-47 with 4:03 to play in the ballgame. A little later in the quarter, the Wolves entered the bonus with 1:44 to play, which handicapped the aggressive Waxahachie press. Timberview shooters converted on 12-of-17 free throws between the 1:44 mark and the final buzzer.
With 1:07 on the fourth-quarter clock, Gipson drilled a three-pointer that closed the Timberview lead to five points, 59-54.
A little more late-game heroics from the senior point guard came when he pulled up for three with 35.3 seconds to play, drew a foul, banked home the bucket and got the free throw to fall. The four-point play pulled the Tribe within three, 63-60.
The Wolves eventually iced the game from the free throw line after a pair of empty Runnin’ Indian possession and held on for the win, 67-60.
Gipson finished the game with a team-high 19 points and nine rebounds. He also added three assists and a steal. The production came fewer than 24 hours after he went off for 27 points in a come-from-behind win against 6A No. 1 Denton Guyer to lift the Runnin’ Indians into the championship game.
“I think Tre was just incredible,” Gober said. “Tre is just a winner, period. There is nothing else that really defines the kid. He was unbelievable and did everything he could possibly do to help us. There wasn’t anything else he could have done more. His effort was incredible but so were most of the guys. We just came up short.”
Grant chipped in 15 points and a team-high four assists for the Tribe, while Wise finished with 11 and Warren had 10. Pope rounded out the scoring with five points.
The Runnin’ Indians, who are now 14-4 on the season and dropped one spot to No. 2 in the TABC 5A poll, get back into district action Tuesday, Jan 2 on the road against (14-3, 0-1) Red Oak. The Hawks lost to Timberview in their district opener, 55-47. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. in Red Oak.