An offensive lull in the third quarter nearly led to an upset of the top-ranked Runnin' Indians.
But it didn't.
Waxahachie weathered a furious No. 14 Lancaster comeback, which included a 15-0 run to end the third quarter, to hold on for a double-digit home win Wednesday night inside George W. Solis Gymnasium, 56-45.
After the game, Waxahachie head boys' basketball coach Greg Gober said the hectic scheduling after a holiday and snow day had a little to do with the mid-game respite.
"Their routine can get a little messed up with a holiday and then a snow day, so you are trying to get pieces together and the next thing you know, we just aren't ready to play," Gober explained. "We fought through it. It was a gut check. We made the shots we had to make but just threw up some bad shots."
He added, "We had an 18-point lead that we let get down to a three-point lead. At the end, we just had to finish and get back. We turned the ball over way too much in the third quarter which costs us, and second-chance shots killed us."
It took almost two full minutes of game time before Larry Wise split a trip to the free throw to score the first point of the ballgame. Eleven seconds later, a Lancaster turnover resulted in a Runnin' Indian fast break where Tre Gipson found a streaking Qua Grant with a bounce pass for a 3-0 Waxahachie lead.
The lead grew to 7-0 before Lancaster found its first basket - a put-back jumper in the lane - with 3:36 to play in the quarter.
The Tigers very obviously struggled to navigate the Runnin' Indian half-court trap early on.
"We created some havoc off it and had some good transitions to get to the basket which helped us," said Gober of the half-court trap early in the game. Lancaster did eventually find its way through the defense, which Gober thought came after the Runnin' Indians "just kind of stagnated."
"We had some guys who just stood around tonight," he added. "That's not the way that we play, and when you play the way that we don't play, those are the results you get."
Grant knocked down a trey as the clock dipped under one minute to play and Wise got a floater to fall as it ran under 10 seconds for a 14-5 Waxahachie lead after one.
Lancaster scored the first four points of the second quarter before Gipson got a contested layup to fall with 4:33 to play. He followed with a jumper from the right elbow for an 18-8 Waxahachie lead.
The Tigers scored four straight points after but the Runnin' Indians quickly responded with a 7-0 run. Wise scored five of those points, which included a three-pointer from the left elbow extended.
The Waxahachie run forced a Lancaster timeout with the Tribe leading, 25-12, and 1:32 to play in the first half.
Mekai Pope capped the first half with a corner trey just before the buzzer to send Waxahachie into the locker room with a 29-14 lead.
Wise led the Runnin' Indians with nine points at the break, while Grant had seven. Malik Martin and Wade Taylor each had five points for Lancaster.
With four minutes to go in the third quarter, Demani Richardson knocked down a three-pointer, and JT Warren then converted a pair of free throws to double-up the Tigers, 36-18.
Lancaster didn't back down, though. The Tigers ended the third quarter on a 15-0 run to pull within three, 36-33.
"We are not used to playing on Wednesdays, but that shouldn't be no excuse," said Gipson of the offensive struggles in the third quarter. "[...] We just knew that even though we started off slow, that we had to pick it up to come out with the win. No matter what, that's what we had to do."
Lancaster continued its charge into the fourth quarter, and it wasn't until a pair of buckets in the paint by Tevin Wofford and Gipson that the Runnin' Indians regained a little breathing room. They led 43-38 with 4:01 to play.
A little later, Grant bodied a foul in the lane and converted his and-one opportunity at the charity stripe for a 10-point Waxahachie lead, 48-38.
Warren put the game on ice with a layup off of a Gipson assist as the fourth-quarter clock ran under one minute with the Runnin' Indians up nine, 52-43.
Grant led the Tribe with 16 points, while Gipson scored 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out six assists in the 56-45 Waxahachie win.
Warren cleaned the board to the tune of 10 rebounds and scored six points.
Wise just missed a double-double with nine points and eight boards, Richards chipped in seven points and two boards, and Pope finished with three points.
Wofford capped the Runnin' Indian scoring with two points and added three rebounds.
The win moved No. 1 Waxahachie to 19-4 on the season and 6-0 in District 10-5A.
Waxahachie will close out the first half of District 10-5A Friday on the road against Mansfield Lake Ridge. The Eagles upset No. 2 Mansfield Timberview on Tuesday, 67-63, behind TJ Chavez's 19 points.
With a win, the Runnin' Indians would close out the first half of the district schedule with a perfect 7-0 mark and a two-game lead on second place.
"The thing about it is, nobody gave us that opportunity," Gober said. "We had to earn it just like every other team. We will have to earn it Friday night. Lake Ridge is a really tough team that is coming off of a huge win against Timberview. Friday night will be another gut check for us."
Gipson added that the Runnin' Indians will need to "play as a team like we always do and execute the game plan that coach gives us. We can't take any team lightly."
Tipoff is at 8 p.m. in the gymnasium at Mansfield Lake Ridge High School.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith