RED OAK – Waxahchie senior post Gary Mason, Jr. did everything he could.
From scoring inside to grabbing rebounds to hitting timely free throws it seemed as though Mason, Jr. was on his way to leading the Runnin’ Indians to an improbable comeback.
Unfortunately, the Runnin’ Indians (16-12, 5-3) the comeback never happened as the Red Oak Hawks (12-13, 4-3) defeated Waxahachie 50-48 to close the gap for the final playoff spot.
In a crucial district 15-4A game, the Hawks were able to get within a half game of the Runnin’ Indians who hold the third and final playoff spot despite blowing a 14 point lead in the fourth quarter.
Down 47-33 with less than seven minutes remaining in the game, the Runnin’ Indians were facing an insurmountable deficit and little hope for a victory.
Mason, Jr. (team-high 18 points and 15 rebounds) got the Runnin’ Indians going by scoring nine points and hauling in five rebounds during a 15-3 run.
“In my opinion, I believe he is the best post in the district,” Coach Lonnie Gaylor said. “He is capable of taking over a game on the offensive and defensive end.”
After converting on a layup with less than a minute left in the game, the Runnin’ Indians narrowed the gap to a single point. However, senior guard Justin Bryan was able to extend the one point lead to two after making the first of his two free throws with 15 seconds left giving Waxahachie an opportunity to tie the game with one final look.
After pulling down the missed free throw, Mason Jr. passed the ball out to sophomore guard Jamison Sterns (10 points) took the ball up court stopping at the free throw line for a last second shot that hit the front of the rim.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Gaylor said. “We were able to give ourselves an opportunity. They just made more plays than we did in the end.”
The daunting task of overcoming a double-digit lead resulted in a third quarter where the Hawks outscore the Indians 16-8.
Senior guard Melvin Johnson scored 8 of his game-high 20 points helping the Hawk’s extend its one point lead to a 44-33 lead at the end of the third quarter after a sluggish second quarter.
“We got off to a slow start,” Gaylor said. “They came out really hot. We did a good job getting back into the game before half.”
Part of the slow start was due to the Hawks’ hot start, which spawned from four consecutive baskets helping Red Oak jump to a 11-2 lead eventually forcing Gaylor to call a timeout with five minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Despite the slow start, the Runnin’ Indians were able to get back in the game when seven point in one sequence capitulating on offensive rebounds and forcing turnovers.
Entering the second quarter, the score was 15-13. Both teams traded baskets keeping the game within a one possession.
Senior guard Ryan Wilson (7 points) did what he could on both ends of the court to keep the Runnin’ Indians in the game with 3 points, two rebounds and two assists in the second quarter.
The Indians will be off on Tuesday and will resume its final push for a playoff berth against Lancaster Feb. 1 in Waxahachie.
“This is a tough district,” Gaylor said. “We still have thing in our hands. We just need to take things one game at a time.”
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