Waxahachie head coach Lonnie Gaylor was hoping he would be playing with a junior varsity roster for three or four weeks.
With the football team getting eliminated from the state playoffs last week, five players suited up for the first time Tuesday and it coincided with the Indians’ first win, a 52-49 victory over previously undefeated Mansfield Timberview.
“I told them I was glad to have them, but I didn’t want them for another three to four weeks,” Gaylor said of the five newcomers. “But we’ve got all our people back now. It’s going to take them a while to get back into basketball shape, but I was really happy with our defensive effort and how we just got after them.”
It was one of those football players, senior Roderick Jefferson, that helped the Indians put the game away in the final minutes.
Jefferson made four of six free throws in the final 1:04, had a key rebound with a one-point lead and then sealed the win with a steal as time expired.
“Roderick’s just a good athlete,” Gaylor said. “He can handle the ball, rebound, play inside or outside, it’s just a real plus for any team when you have someone that can do more than just play offense or defense.”
Tuesday’s game was a rollercoaster affair throughout.
The Indians had a pair of 5-point leads in the first quarter, but Timberview managed to tie the score each time.
A free throw by Jefferson with 18 seconds left in the quarter to give the Indians a 13-12 lead.
The second quarter got off to a similar start with the Indians scoering the first seven points behind five from Jamison Sterns and two from Ryan Wilson.
Timberview slowing chipped away at the lead and pulled within two by halftime, 20-18.
Both offenses picked up the pace in the second half.
After Timberview took a 26-25 lead early in the third quarter, the teams traded baskets with neither taking more than a three point lead until late in the quarter.
With the Timberwolves leading 32-31, Gary Mason made two free throws, Jefferson hit a 3-pointer and Derek Koch made a free throw to give the Indians a 37-32 lead.
Timberview, however, cut the lead back to two with a 3-pointer as time ran out on the third quarter.
The trend continued in the fourth quarter as neither team led by more than three.
Timberview briefly took the lead 30 seconds into the fourth, but Waxahachie responded with a 3-pointer by Detric Slaughter and a layup by Sterns to take a 44-41 lead.
Timberview tied the game at 6-46 with 3:37 left, but Wilson and Jefferson hit six straight free throws, the final two from Jefferson coming with 45 seconds left to give the Indians a 52-49 lead.
The Timberwolves had one last chance in the final seconds, but Jefferson came away with a steal to seal the win. Gaylor was glad to see the Indians pull off a close win early in the season.
“You can’t simulate that kind of stuff in practice,” he said. “In practice, you don’t have the pressure of not knowing what the other team is going to do.”
The Indians play at Waco University on Saturday.