MANSFIELD — With Tuesday night's 65-51 win over Mansfield Lake Ridge High School, the Runnin' Indians put to bed one historical journey and stepped on the path to another.
The last time Waxahachie High School (24-5, 14-0) had a boys' team finish district play undefeated was 1999 — 18 years and one Desmond Mason NBA career ago.
Their march into the history books didn't mean the road to history didn't require a little adjustment, though.
Waxahachie emerged victorious against Mansfield Lake Ridge with help from a quintet of double-digit performances and gritty fourth quarter play. Despite the scoring surge of juniors Jaylen Warren (15 pts), Montre Gipson (14 pts), Mar'Quaylen Grant (14 pts) and Larry Wise (11 pts) and senior Xavier Thompson II (11 pts), the Eagles were not resigned to go quietly into the night.
Behind team-leading scorer senior Mike Adewunmi (9 pts), eight points each from Neal Chambliss, Tahlik Chavez and Langdon Williams and at least two from the remaining five boys on the roster, Mansfield Lake Ridge stormed to a 33-31 halftime lead. They also had a two-point advantage going into the game's final stretch.
That's when Waxahachie, trailing 42-40 in the fourth quarter, found its mettle. Sparked by Grant's steal-turned-transition layup with little more than six minutes remaining, the Runnin' Indians scored 25 points on the strength of a 21-4 run. Grant scored 10 points in the fourth — including two via turnovers and one on a 3-point play.
The hot shooting of Warren, the game's leading scorer, as well as late-game defense and rebounding, bolstered the Runnin' Indians' sprint toward history. He hit 57 percent (4-for-7) of his shots and sunk 71 percent (5-for-7) of free throws attempted. Three of the free throws were in the fourth quarter.
Wise (6), Gipson (4), Grant (3), Thompson II (3) and Warren (3) combined for 19 of the team's 26 rebounds. Led by Gipson's six steals, Waxahachie forced more than 15 turnovers.
Though the Runnin' Indians recent taste of history may be sweet, the prize ahead would be that much sweeter. The destination on the road Head Coach Greg Gober and Waxahachie will start against Crowley High School at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Mansfield High School, however, would be familiar to only the grizzled sideline leader.
The last Waxahachie basketball team to win a state title was Head Coach Lesli Priebe's 4A Lady Indians in 2006. The female championship notwithstanding, there is a 34-year gap between 2017 and 1983 — the last time Gober and the Indians lifted the coveted state trophy and adorned their fingers with hard-earned hardware.
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.