Early foul troubles and a high-energy South Grand Prairie press led to a frustrating night of basketball for the Waxahachie Runnin’ Indians at home Friday night.
Yet even with leading scorers JT Warren and CJ Noland forced to sit with three fouls for most of the second and third quarters, the Runnin’ Indians still managed to make things interesting late in the 55-52 District 7-6A loss.
In fact, the Runnin’ Indians even held a seven-point lead midway through the fourth quarter but were simply unable to close the deal against an SGP squad that was every bit capable of the road upset.
“It really comes down to their guys made it at the end and we didn’t,” Waxahachie head boys’ basketball coach Greg Gober said. “We can overcome that if we just keep fighting through it but you can’t do that when you give the ball back to them.”
Gober added, “When we don’t turn the ball over we do some really good things. The positive thing from tonight was that we were able to compete at that level without CJ and without JT for a long stretch of time. We were able to compete and take a lead on it. The scary part is what we did after [taking the lead]. We need to eliminate a bunch of that stuff.”
Despite sitting with three fouls, Noland still matched BJ Francis for a team-high 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the floor. He added three rebounds and three steals, while Francis pulled down four boards.
Demani Richards added eight points to his team-high three assists and seven steals. Preston Hodge chipped in six points, while Da’maraie Watkins scored five points, KB Jackson had four, JT Warren added three and AB Shorter rounded out the offensive production with two points.
Karlyn Kenner led SGP with a game-high 18 points and Jalen Griffin added 13.
The loss drops the Runnin’ Indians to 3-4 in the District 7-6A standings and into fifth place — one game back of SGP and Mansfield.
“Here we go,” said Gober of the final six-game stretch and playoff push. “That win would have probably jumped us into a second or third place deal but that loss drops us probably into fifth place. So here we are on the outside looking in again because at home we can’t take care of business.”
The Runnin’ Indians built a seven-point lead, 12-5, by the two-and-a-half-minute mark of the first quarter, despite not playing their cleanest basketball. They had allowed four offensive rebounds over that span but surrendered just two points off of them.
However, a quick corner three-pointer out of an SGP timeout, fifth offense rebound for the Warriors and a Runnin’ Indian turnover in transition evaporated the lead and tied the game at 12 with just over one minute to play in the first quarter.
BJ Francis then drilled a three from the left wing to push Waxahachie back in front, 15-12.
Preston Hodge tipped in a rebound a little later for the Runnin’ Indians only to have an SGP shooter knockdown a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Waxahachie led by one point, 17-16, after the first quarter of action.
The Warriors took their first lead, 18-17, with the first basket of the second quarter after 1:16 of game time.
The offensive pace did not pick up over the ensuing three minutes and change, but a Francis three-pointer from the right wing with 2:54 to play in the first half did reclaim the Runnin’ Indians lead, 24-22.
Francis then knocked down his third three-pointer of the half as the clock dipped under one minute to play to knot the game at 27.
Abdul Beyah, a 5-foot-6-freshman guard, found the bottom of the net with a floater in the lane just before the first-half buzzer to send the Warriors into the locker room leading, 29-27.
The slow offensive pace from the second quarter carried over to the third, as an AB Shorter layup in transition gave the Runnin’ Indians a modest five-point lead, 38-33, with 2:28 to play in the frame.
SGP closed the third quarter on a 6-1 run to send the game into the final eight minutes knotted at 39-all.
The Runnin’ Indians came out of the gates in the fourth quarter with a clear desire to play with a little more tempo on offense. It resulted in a quick two points for Richardson and a three from the left wing by Noland. The pair of buckets put Waxahachie on top, 44-41, and forced the Warriors to call an early timeout with 6:32 to play.
KB Jackson then knocked down a pair of free throws out of the stoppage to increase the Tribe’s lead to five, 46-41. Waxahachie increased the lead to seven a couple of possessions later.
SGP junior guard Jalen Griffin then cut the Waxahachie lead in half with a corner three and Karlyn Kenner added two more points off of a Runnin’ Indian turnover. The Warriors then retook the lead, 48-48, when Kenner, a senior guard for the Warriors, converted on a pair of free throws.
The 7-0 SGP run took 35 seconds of game time and Gober promptly called a timeout to regroup the Runnin’ Indians.
After the game, he pointed to the quick SGP scoring run as the final momentum shifter.
“It turned on us when we were seven points up and had three turnovers in a row, which they converted everyone one of them into baskets, so now we are even or one down. Then we had to fight our way back through it,” Gober said. “We just have to find ourselves a player who really wants the ball, demands the ball and no one can really take it from him. We are going to keep working to find that, but he isn’t going to mysteriously show up. One of our guys just has to step up and be that guy.”
Following the breather, Noland got a circus shot from in the lane to go, absorbed the foul and then drained the and-one free throw to put Waxahachie up two, 51-49, with just over one minute to play.
Kenner again tied the game, this time at 51, with 31.7 seconds to play and forced a third Gober timeout of the fourth quarter.
A turnover in the backcourt resulted in Kenner being fouled and drilling both free throws for a two-point SGP lead with 21.8 seconds left on the clock.
Richardson was then fouled and sent to the line for two shots with 12.7 ticks remaining. He rolled the first around the rim and in, but caught the back iron on the second, leaving Waxahachie still down one, 53-52.
Kenner went back to the line for a one-and-one after being trapped by a trio of Runnin’ Indians on the inbound and made both.
The Runnin’ Indians trailed 55-52 with 8.1 seconds to play in the crucial district home game.
Watkins has a contested look at the bucket from a couple feet beyond the arc to tie the game at the buzzer but couldn’t get it to go.
The Warriors escaped with the victory, 55-52.
“We did a poor, poor job of blocking out late in the game and gave them easy putbacks and it put us in a bad position,” Gober said. “We didn’t make our free throws down the stretch and turned the ball over 20 times in the game. If you don’t make your free throws you are going to have a rough night trying to beat anybody.”
The Runnin’ Indians remain home for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff Tuesday night against (18-7, 7-0) DeSoto.
The Eagles won the first meeting, 69-54, on Dec. 18 in DeSoto.