WAXAHACHIE — The Runnin' Indians used arguably Larry Wise's best performance of the season — including five 3-pointers — to beat Red Oak High School 63-43 Tuesday night at George W. Solis Gymnasium.
They also had four players with five or more rebounds and two or more steals.
"Larry hit some big shots for us [in the first half] and we got on a roll. He and Jaylen (Warren) hit a couple of 3-pointers, too," said Greg Gober, the head boys' basketball coach at Waxahachie High School. "They attacked the basket — finally — after 6 to 8 times not attacking it, which really gave our outside shooters the space they needed to knock down key shots. We also did a lot better job blocking out and rebounding that we have in the past. We're going to look to build on those performances."
Led by six of Wise's 19 total points, Waxahachie finished an inspiring 21-point second quarter on the strength of a 15-2 run and entered halftime with a 34-23 advantage. Wise hit 57 percent (4-for-7) of his shots in the first half and ended the game 2-for-5 from the field and 5-for-7 from three, adding six rebounds, two assists and a steal.
His steal added to Waxahachie's total of eight, courtesy of Montrae Gipson (2), Mar'Quaylen Grant (2) and four other Runnin' Indians that tallied a steal each. Warren (10 pts, 7 rebs, 2 stls), Xavier Thompson II (6 pts, 8 rebs, 1 blk) and Joe Savala (4 pts) each added contributions to the 20-point victory.
The Runnin' Indians commitment to make the extra pass was evident, too. Outside of assist leaders Grant (8 ast) and Gipson (5 ast), between eight and 12 points were the product of passes. The two primary ball handlers weren't only facilitators, but also scored 12 and eight points respectively.
Perhaps most importantly, Waxahachie's continually evolving and improving defense held the Jason Sasser-led Hawks to 43 points — only the second time in five games Red Oak was held under 50.
"I can't say that we're better than we were before the break, but what I can say is that we're consistently improving," Gober said. "We're working on things we have to. When we see a deficiency we need to improve, we focus on it."
Not only did they outrebound Red Oak 40-24, but they also limited the Hawks' perimeter offense. Despite 2-for-4 3-point shooting from both Keymond Taylor and Cameron Peay, Red Oak finished a dismal 3-for-15 (20 percent) from deep.
Their 2-point and free throw shooting were marked improvements from their outside performance. In four regulation quarters of high school basketball Red Oak finished 10-for-21 (48 percent) from the field and 9-for-14 (64 percent) from the charity stripe.
Despite winning their first district home game of 2017 and vaulting into a two-way tie with Mansfield Timberview High School for first place in the District 10-5A standings, Gober said there is room for his Indians to grow.
Especially with the looming menace of an uber-talented Midlothian High School team chock with the athleticism of Caleb Jordan, Kaden Archie, Evan Marshall and Vince Lee.
"Midlothian's a really, really good and physical team with a lot of good players," Gober said. "Everybody's going to have to be a lot tougher and locked into what we're doing. [Lee] is big, but we play a lot of other guys that are big, too. We just have to play hard and smarter and see that happens with it. We've been playing against big guys all year long and never had a big to go against them but we find a way."
Waxahachie is scheduled to face the (15-4, 1-1) Panthers at 8 p.m. Friday at MHS Arena. Midlothian suffered its first district loss of the season after falling to Mansfield Timberview 67-34 at MTHS Gymnasium.
The 34 points scored against the Wolves was the Panthers' lowest total of the season and the first time the team was held to fewer than 40 points since their 52-39 loss to Arlington Bowie High School on Dec. 2 during the Arlington Classic Basketball Tournament.
Archie, the team's leading scorer, was held to 12 points and Jordan, Marshall and Tyler Tobey scored seven points apiece. Lee, Midlothian's power forward and main presence in the middle of the lane, finished the game with six.
Marcus S. Marion can be reached at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter @MarcusMarionWNI.