A huge second half fueled No. 2 IMG Academy and its six ESPN top-100 players past the host Waxahachie Runnin' Indians in the final game of the ARS Rescue Rooter National Hoopfest DFW.
The Ascenders poured in 42 points in the third and fourth quarters Saturday inside Mike Turner Gymnasium after leading by just two points at the break for the 74-59 victory.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was named the MVP of the game after he recorded a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double for the IMG Academy Ascenders out of Bradenton, Florida. He is a Villanova-commit and ranked No. 39 in the ESPN top-100 for the class of 2019.
Jaden Springer (No. 9 in ESPN 2020) added a game-high 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting for the Ascenders. Armando Bacot, a University of North Carolina-commit, added 14 points, while Josh Green (No. 9 in ESPN 2019) had 13, Jarace Walker added eight and Noah Farrakhan (No. 36 in ESPN 2020) had four.
Mekai Pope and BJ Francis both scored 15 points for the Runnin' Indians, who fell to 8-4 on the season and entered the week ranked No. 10 in the TABC 6A poll.
JT Warren added 10 points for Waxahachie. Da'mariae Watkins (8) CJ Noland (7), AB Shorter (2) and KB Jackson (2) rounded out the scoring for the Runnin' Indians.
"I am incredibly proud of not only our team but the entire community for banding together and making something awesome even better," Runnin' Indians head coach Greg Gober said after the conclusion of the first-ever National Hoopfest held in Waxahachie. "I thought we did a terrific job of representing Waxahachie with our team and our people."
"[...] I think for the most part our team played really well. Truthfully, everyone knew we were outmatched and we didn't care about that. We just kept playing."
Francis got the party started with a three-pointer from the left corner off of a Noland assist in transition.
The lead was short-lived for the Runnin' Indians, as Springer scored from the low post and Green then drained a trey from the left wing.
Green added two more points with a pair of free throws for a 7-3 IMG lead with 4:57 to play in the first quarter.
IMG increased the lead to six points before Noland tickled the twine on a straightaway three-pointer to pull the Runnin' Indians within a single possession, 9-6.
It was evident early on that Gober instructed the Runnin' Indians to go for the basketball — often — and not always at its highest point, as IMG had the clear height advantage with seven players listed at 6-foot-6 or taller.
It was also quite clear to those watching that if the Runnin' Indians did not begin to get more of the ball and less of the IMG players that they'd soon run out of fouls to give or, worse, players.
Noland was the first Runnin' Indian with three personal fouls after he was called for contact in the lane with 2:02 to play in the first quarter.
The Ascenders converted on all four free-throw attempts in the opening frame for a 19-13 advantage after the first eight minutes.
Warren promptly drained a pair of free throws for the Runnin' Indians to begin the second quarter and KB Jackson followed with a floater along the right baseline after an IMG turnover to cut the deficit to two points, 19-17.
The Ascenders entered the bonus with 6:03 to play in the first half, as the Runnin' Indians were called for their ninth team foul, but Brown-Jones missed the attempt.
Warren made the miss count when he ripped a three-pointer through the net to give Waxahachie its first lead since the opening minutes, 20-19.
About two minutes later, Green and Farrakhan scored five quick points for the Ascenders; only to have Warren and Watkins sink a pair of three-pointer for the Runnin' Indians.
Waxahachie led 28-27 as the clock dipped under two minutes to play in half. Green then added his second trey of the quarter to put IMG back on top.
The Ascenders carried a 32-30 advantage into the halftime locker room and came out of the break on fire. IMG quickly built a double-digit lead that grew to 12 points, 46-34, with 2:57 to play in the third quarter.
Pope responded by knocking down his first three-pointer of the half for the Runnin' Indians.
Waxahachie eventually trimmed the deficit to nine points when Francis hit a runner in the lane with just under 40 seconds to play in the third quarter.
The quarter ended with IMG leading, 53-42.
That would be as close as the Runnin' Indians would be to the Ascenders the rest of the way. IMG Academy outscored Waxahachie 42-29 in the second half for a victory in the National Hoopfest DFW finale, 74-59.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith