An already battle-tested Lady Indian basketball team had the defending state champions on the ropes late in the fourth quarter Tuesday inside George W. Solis Gymnasium.
Unfortunately, No. 1 Mansfield Timberview found just the right answers to stave off the upset, 54-44. The final score is not indicative of how closely played the game was, as Waxahachie was forced to foul late.
The Lady Indians trailed 24-22 at the half and led after a Diamond Atchison three-pointer that put Waxahachie ahead, 45-44, with about 90 seconds to play.
After the game, Waxahachie head girls' basketball coach Lesli Priebe said, “This is a credit to our schedule." She then pointed to games against state and national powers like Duncanville, DeSoto, Mesquite Horn and the handful of out-of-state competition as helping to build confidence in the Lady Indians. That poise, she explained, has Waxahachie ready to stand toe-to-toe with anyone.
“The kids do have the confidence that they can play with anyone,” Priebe continued. “[…] We weren’t scared of them. We had a game plan. Without a mistake here or a mistake there, we are sitting on the winning end. I am so proud of the way they fought for 32 minutes. They scraped and fought.”
Timberview began the second half with an and-one, but Mya Williams answered for the Lady Indians on their ensuing possession to keep Waxahachie within three, 27-24.
The Lady Wolves then pieced together a 5-1 run for a seven-point lead. A little later, back-to-back three-pointers by Cassidy Morgan and Sarah Bush pulled the Lady Indians within one, 32-31, as the clock dipped under two minutes to play in the third quarter.
With 1:24 to play in the frame, Rayna Ross made a perfect trip to the free throw line for the Lady Indians' first lead, 33-32, since the opening basket of the game.
Timberview closed the frame on a 5-2 run to carry a 37-35 lead into the fourth quarter.
Bush sank a pair of free throw early in the fourth to knot the game at 37 before the Lady Wolves ripped off a 6-0 run for a 43-37 lead with six-minutes-and-change to play.
Waxahachie ended its scoring drought by beating the Timberview full-court press with five passes, capped by touch passes from Bush to Williams to a wide-open Morgan underneath the basket.
Atchison pulled up for a mid-range jumper in transition a little later to cut the deficit back down to three, 44-41.
With 1:46 to play, Ross pulled down the biggest offensive rebound of the game for the Lady Indians and found a wide-open Atchison for three. The made basket pulled Waxahachie within one, 45-44.
Timberview responded with a deep two and led by three as the clock ran under one-minute to play.
The Lady Wolves then worked the ball around the outside on their next possession out of a timeout, eventually finding an easy layup for a 49-44 lead. It was the final dagger for the Lady Indians.
Waxahachie was then forced to play the foul game, and the Lady Wolves made the most of their opportunities at the charity stripe down the stretch. The defending 5A champs held on for the 54-44 win.
“I think we learned that we need to communicate better," said Atchison after the game. "We weren’t on the same page the whole game. Some of us were running one play, and some were running another, but I don’t want to make excuses. I just feel like, if we can be on the same page, we will be alright.”
Bush led the Lady Indians with 13 points, while Morgan had 12 and Atchison scored 11. Ross added six points, and Williams finished with two points and a team-high five rebounds.
Ross led the team with four assists.
Lauryn Thompson led the Lady Wolves with a game-high 21 points.
DIAMOND SHINES AGAIN
On Wednesday, Atchison joined about 40 other Dallas-Fort Worth male and female basketball players as a nominee to the annual McDonald's All-American Games.
Though Atchison does not always light up the scoring column, her presence in the backcourt has been an anchor for the Lady Indians throughout her four-year career in green and white.
She's a facilitator and one of the better defenders in the state.
“I am so proud of her,” Priebe said. “She is a four-year varsity starter, a four-year captain and a leader of our team. I cannot say enough good things about her. She makes my job easy.”
“[…] She is the two-time defensive player of the year in the toughest district in the state of Texas," Priebe continued. "That doesn’t show up in the stat book — how hard she pressures the ball and how she handles the pressure. Because she gets double teamed just about every time, she touches the ball.”
After she listened to her head coach talk, Atchison, standing all of 5-foot-2, couldn’t contain her grin when asked about the national recognition.
“I am proud of myself because there are a lot of people who doubt me,” Atchison humbly said. “They sometimes look at me as just the average player or an OK player. And there are a lot of people who are very, very talented who aren’t on that list, so I am very blessed to be one of the nominees. I am very excited about that.”
The loss Friday dropped the Lady Indians to 18-8 on the season and 5-2 in District 10-5A. They currently sit in third place in the district standings behind (27-2, 8-0) Mansfield Timberview and (16-9, 6-1) Mansfield Summit. The Lady Wolves and Lady Jaguars are the only two district foes to top Waxahachie through the first half of the district schedule. Midlothian is in fourth place with a 4-3-district mark.
Waxahachie flips to the second half of district play Tuesday, Jan. 16 at home against Lancaster. The Lady Indians defeated the Lady Tigers 58-49 in their first meeting.
Tipoff is at 6:30 p.m.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith