ATHENS – An old sports adage says, “defense wins championships.”
No introductions were needed on Tuesday night as the biggest game of the year between two district 16-4A rivals, the Waxahachie Lady Indians and Waco Lady Lions, took place at the Cardinal Gym on the campus of Trinity Valley Community College.
After losing to the Lady Lions twice this season, Waxahachie (25-13) stole the show in Tuesday night’s Class 4A Region II regional quarterfinal with a stingy defense and an opportunistic offense.
Waxahachie topped Waco by 18 points, 50-32.
“I guess what they say is true. The third time is the charm,” Waxahachie coach Lesli Priebe said. “Even though Waco beat us twice this season I could tell my players were ready. They entered the game focused and were ready to play.”
Waxahachie’s fifth win in a row was evident that the Lady Indians are peaking at the right time.
Entering the playoffs the Lady Indians, a No. 4 seed, defeated a No. 1 seed. In the second round of the playoffs, Waxahachie defeated a No. 3 seed and Tuesday they topped a No. 2 seed.
An even bigger sign the Lady Indians are playing their best basketball of the season right now is the fact that they beat a Waco team that last week defeated Longview, the No. 8 team in Class 4A, by scoring a surprising 75 points, 75-65.
Topping Waco could not have come at a better time for Waxahachie as they advance to face No. 4 Frisco in the regional semifinals on Friday at the Garland Special Events Center. A time has yet to be determined.
Frisco (32-3) defeated rival Frisco Centennial, 70-49, on Tuesday extending their winning streak to 17 games. The Raccoons have averaged 89.5 points per game in the playoffs this season. Playing against Highland Park in the bi-district playoffs, Frisco won 106-42.
Waxahachie’s keys to success on Tuesday may well unlock the door to a victory over the Raccoons on Friday.
Priebe said the Lady Indians focused on four major areas in Tuesday night’s game.
First was to stop the penetration of the Waco defenders.
While the Lady Indians kept Waco from driving to the basket most of the game, it was most evident in the third period.
In the third, Waxahachie allowed Waco to land just one field goal with :16 seconds left in the period. Waxahachie held the Lady Lions to four total points in the period, two coming via the free throw line.
Waxahachie’s second key to victory was to take care of the basketball and limit the amount of offensive turnovers.
In the first period the Lady Indians turned the ball over several times leading to a 8-5 Waco lead after one period of play.
Waco’s press defense forced several Waxahachie turnovers in the period, but the rebounding ability on defense by the Lady Indians held the score close.
Ironically, rebounding was the Lady Indians third key to success as Priebe said they needed to keep Waco off the offensive boards.
The Lady Indians carried their dominance on the offensive boards from the first period into the final three period forcing Waco into several one shot opportunities.
With the defensive boards the Lady Indians were able to push the ball in transition, something they did not want Waco to be able to do.
Priebe’s final key for a Lady Indians victory was to stop the transition or fast break game of the Lady Lions.
Waxahachie was amazing quick to get back after every shot on offense with at least two players standing in the paint waiting for Waco.
With the Lady Indians quick to prevent fast break penetration, Waco was forced to attempt NBA range three point shots – an attempt that was not a success.
“We are very excited about the win,” Priebe said. “At halftime we talked about it being 0-to-0 and we have got 32 minutes to decide who wants it more. 32 minutes, nobody works harder than we do.”
Entering the second half with the game tied at 19 the Lady Indians outscored Waco 14-4 in the third period to take a 33-23 lead to the fourth period.
Waxahachie senior Amanda Mangan opened the second half with a three-pointer to give the Lady Indians a 22-19 lead. Her shot sparked a 10-0 Waxahachie run before Waco stopped the action with a timeout with 5:07 to play in the period.
Waco nailed two free throws shortly after the timeout but Waxahachie answered back with shots by Brittanya Sterns and Mangan to control the lead.
Leading by 10 points entering the final eight minutes the Lady Indians had to close the deal.
Waco defeated Waxahachie 57-52 in Waco and 49-47 in Waxahachie during district play. On each occasion the Lady Indians held a lead late in the game but Waco rallied back.
Waco opened the fourth period with a basket before Mangan nailed a “huge” three-pointer to answer the Lady Lions’ shot.
“Mangan’s threes were huge tonight,” Priebe said.
The three-pointer seemed to have quenched any hopes of a Waco comeback as it ignited a lively Waxahachie crowd.
With the support of their fans behind them making far more noise than Waco, Waxahachie outscored the Lady Lions 17-9 in the final period for the win.
Waxahachie did not allow a Lady Lion to reach double figures in scoring. Waco connected on just one three-point shot in the second period.
Sterns and P’Kandra Jordan recorded double doubles for Waxahachie. Sterns had 14 points and 10 rebounds while Jordan had 10 points and 10 boards.
Jordan scored the first basket of the game for Waxahachie on a three-point shot in the first period. Waco took a 2-0 lead before Jordan hit the shot to give Waxahachie an early advantage.
Mangan finished the game with eight points and two 3-pointers.
Other Lady Indians with points in the game were Chanel Miller (6), Briana Jordan (5), Kateshia Overton (4) and Shaquille Davis (3).