MIDLOTHIAN — Dallas Kimball High School, the No. 23 team in the state per the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, had an opportunity to make a statement to the other 32 teams in the area round of the UIL playoffs — including No. 1 Brownsville Veterans Memorial.
By taking out Waxahachie on Friday at Midlothian High School Arena, they could eliminate one of Region II's biggest threats to the state championship outside of Lancaster, Mansfield Timberview or Midlothian.
Mar'Quaylen Grant, Xavier Thompson II and the Runnin' Indians, though, scored a pair of near 30-point quarters, erased the possibility and ensured 'Hachie wouldn't be another Little Elm. Waxahachie cruised to an 86-61 victory on the familiar hardwood of Midlothian.
"X stepped up with some senior leadership and we had a good game from Qua, but if you really look at it, we had everybody contributing," said Greg Gober, the Runnin' Indians head basketball coach. "Jaylen (Warren), who came off the bench instead of starting, hit bomb after bomb and Tre (Gipson) played out of his mind. There's not a guy that went into the game that didn't do well. That's what we count on every night — people doing their job."
While Gober and Waxahachie dispatched Dallas Kimball in spectacular fashion, Little Elm, the TABC No. 2 team, was busy falling to unranked West Mesquite by 27 points.
Dallas Kimball, which had the advantage of Warren not being in the starting lineup, kept the area round matchup interesting for only eight minutes and entered the second quarter with a slim 16-14 lead after doling out heavy man-to-man pressure.
"The key to any pressure is taking care of the ball," Gober said about breaking the Knight's press and Kimball's will to win after the first quarter. "We're lucky we have a lot of good ballhandlers that can make good decisions when they're put in those situations."
Two of their "Big 3," Odessey Keeling (15 pts) and Ibrahim Muhammad (16 pts) dueled Waxahachie junior Larry Wise (12 pts) on the long-range front, found their touch in the opening eight minutes and sunk a trio of deep shots.
That's when Grant and Thompson sparked a 27-14 second quarter run. The two boys, as well as Tevin Wofford, helped create a gap Dallas Kimball couldn't cover. Perhaps more frightening, The Runnin' Indians scored almost 30 points with Warren on the bench and not at 100 percent.
"I know my role, we all know our roles," said Wofford, a lengthy junior forward that stepped into a starting role in the second of back-to-back playoff games. "We knew this was a big game for us, but we also knew how good we are when we play as a team and as one. I just focused on playing hard and physical, keeping them off the boards while getting some and scoring when I can. We need JT and we're really good with him on the court, but we're solid without him."
He scored two points and added three of Waxahachie's 12 steals. Junior Montre Gipson, the team's fourth double-digit scorer, just missed a double-double with 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.
With the help of their offensive punch, Waxahachie had little problem making it 16 games won in a row after halftime, using its four double-digit scorers to outscore 72-45 in the final three quarters.
It scored 50 points in the second half.
Grant had a game-high 21 points, six assists and five steals and Thompson II scored 19 points on 4 of 6 shooting on 2-point field goals and 2 of 2 shooting on 3-pointers. Warren, playing a reserve role in the area round, had 16 points and five rebounds during the win.
As a team, the Runnin' Indians shot 54 percent from the field, including 9 of 22 from the 3-point line (40 percent).
The victory put Waxahachie in a head-to-head matchup with Ellis County rival Midlothian, which beat Dallas Conrad 73-46 Friday night on the back of junior Kaden Archie's second 20-plus point game, in the regional quarterfinal round. It will be the third time the two teams meet this season.
"I have no idea what this game is going to be like the third time around, we're just going to have to find a way to compete with them," Gober said about the impending Tuesday matchup. "They're a really talented team and we're going to play and figure it out."
The Runnin' Indians have a 2-0 advantage over the Panthers, beating the cross-county rival 65-50 Jan. 6 and 62-52 on Jan. 31.
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI