WACO – Waxahachie senior Nykil Lawson stepped to the free throw line with two seconds left in the bi-district playoff game between the Waxahachie Indians and No. 12 Pflugerville Hendrickson Hawks with the Indians holding a 65-63 lead.
In his first trip to the line since the first period the senior shook off being mobbed on the intentional foul and drained the biggest two free throws of his high school career to give the Indians a four-point lead, 67-63.
“There was a lot of pressure but I just took my time. I thought about all the people that this would mean a lot to and I knocked them down. This is huge, huge. I am so excited right now you don’t even understand, I am shaking I am so excited,” Lawson said.
A last ditch three-point heave fell short for Henderickson and the Waxahachie Runnin’ Indians pulled a first round upset Tuesday at Hewitt Midway High School that no one expected.
“When I found out Ennis was up by eight I thought it boded well for us. But when we got here and seen that Ennis went out I was a little worried. Our guys have been battling all year and to be down 15, we were in a bad situation. But if there is a group of kids you want out there in that type of situation it is these guys,” Waxahachie head coach Steve Weeks said.
“This year Nykil has worked hard to become a better shooter. We play some little games on game day where we get out and shoot threes and he has become a factor in that game. He has become more and more confident and I think that carried over. He looked like a guy who knew he was going to make those at the end. Those are two of the biggest free throws he has ever shot, no question.”
Lawson’s free throws sealed the deal but it was a energized fourth quarter that put the Indians in position to pull off the win.
Hendrickson built a 15-point lead midway through the third quarter before Waxahachie cut it to nine entering the fourth.
With eight minutes to go on the season the Indians gave it all they had and outscored the state’s No. 12 Class 4A team 24-11 to overcome the deficit and win the game.
“We were trying to protect some of our kids because we were in foul trouble so we came out in the second half trying to run zone but were not very successful with it. We decided just to go ahead and take our chances and dropped back into man. We played our three-quarter court press and that gave them a little trouble,” Weeks said.
Leading the fourth quarter rally were seniors LaDarius Brown and Chris Henderson.
Brown had five points in the fourth while Henderson dropped in eight including a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
With Lawson making his way to the line with two seconds left on the clock the effort given by Brown and the rest of his teammates was on his mind.
“Number one, I wanted to do this for my best friend LaDarius Brown. Two, my team deserved this. We came a long way, from nothing to something, to win the game and I feel like we deserved this the most,” Lawson said.
Brown had one of his best games in his three-year varsity basketball career in one of the toughest game day situations he has had to face.
The 6-foot-3 senior scored 16 points and pulled in 12 rebounds for a double-double while picking up six steals and two blocks less than 24 hours after his mother passed away.
“This has been a tough day for him with the loss of a family member. It was really special for him to be able to play and play like he did,” Weeks said. “He fills the stat line out every night, has become a big leader on the floor and we are just proud to have him on our side. I can’t say enough about what he did tonight.”
Knowing his team needed him on the court there was no way Brown was going to miss the biggest game in Waxahachie basketball since he joined the team in 2009.
“This was a big one. We came out hungry to beat the No. 1 team in their district. It was shocking. At first, I did not think we were going to pull it out,” Brown said. “But we started working as a team and I was like, ‘yeah we got it.’ I was a little worried in the fourth with four fouls but coach told me to watch what I do, don’t foul. So I just played with the four and we did it.”
A basket by Brown cut Hendrickson’s lead to one, 55-54, with less than five minutes to play before junior Austin Combs knocked down two free throws to give the Indians their first lead since the first quarter.
Hendrickson (27-9) did not stop and retook the lead 57-56 with 3:14 to play before Lawson worked inside the paint and dropped in a basket at the 2:35 mark to put the Indians ahead for good.
The Hawks cut the Waxahachie lead to one, 63-62, with 55 seconds to play before key defensive plays by Combs and Don King III kept Hendrickson off the board and gave the Waxahachie offense a chance to add some cushion.
Henderson went to the line with 16 seconds left on the clock and drained two free throws giving Waxahachie a 65-62 lead. The senior finished the night with a team high 17 points while shooting 12-for-12 from the line.
Hendrickson added a free throw with four seconds to play cutting the Waxahachie lead to two before Lawson pulled down a rebound on the second free throw attempt and was mobbed by Hawks setting up the game sealing free throws.
Three players scored in double figures for the Indians as Henderson led the way with 17, Brown had 16 and Lawson 11. Combs hit a third quarter three as part of seven points while King had five points, Robert Lowe Jr. four and Randy Head three. Larry Ranson and Zach Rieper had two each to round out the Waxahachie scoring.
King added 10 rebounds and four steals to his five points while Lawson had eight rebounds.
Waxahachie took a 16-13 lead after one as the Hawks could not land a long distance shot before Hendrickson took its first lead of the game four minutes into the second.
Waxahachie (19-13) advances to the area playoffs against Jacksonville (22-11) after defeating District 16-4A champ Hendrickson.