FRISCO — CJ Noland was dominant as usual, but Monday’s opening game of the Dallas Mavericks Fall Classic may have been a coming-out party of sorts for Waxahachie junior Jalen Lake.
A 6-foot-4 transfer from Mansfield Lake Ridge, Lake stroked five 3-point baskets in the first half and finished with 19 points, joining Noland’s 27-point, 8-rebound outing as the Class 6A No. 6-ranked Runnin’ Indians took an 82-63 victory over Frisco Independence on the Knights’ home floor to open the tournament.
“He’s a great shooter,” Waxahachie head coach Greg Gober said of Lake. “He’s struggled with his shot from time to time, but he didn’t let that bother him. He’s been doing all the other things. This game, he was really focused and kept us in there early when things weren’t going well for us.”
BJ Francis added 12 points, AB Shorter eight points, and AJ Russ seven for the Indians (4-0), who advanced to take on Dallas Carter at 10:30 a.m. in Tuesday’s quarterfinal, with another game to follow at 4:30 p.m. The Fall Classic will wrap up on Wednesday with the championship games to be played at the Comerica Center in Frisco.
WHS was a perfect 11-of-11 from the free-throw line on the day. The Indians held a slight rebounding edge, 33-29, but Gober wasn’t pleased with that.
“We did a poor, poor job of blocking out,” he said. “If you look at (Independence’s) rebounds and what they did with those rebounds … it probably hurt us the most because we didn’t block out.”
Rhino Hernandez led the Knights with 17 points, while Malik McMurray added 14 and Harrison Young a dozen.
The Runnin’ Indians attacked the Knights’ zone defense by shooting 10-of-18 from the floor in the first eight minutes, taking a 26-17 lead at the end of the first quarter. Noland had eight of his points in the period, while Lake warmed up with a pair of treys and Russ added another.
“People would love to score 26 points in a quarter, but the problem is, we gave up too many points,” Gober said. “We normally don’t give up that many points, so that kind of put us in a bind.”
Then Lake hit a pull-up jumper in the lane for the Indians’ first double-digit lead of the game, and answered an Independence steal and layup with a 3-pointer. Lake added two more 3s late in the half to help WHS take a 44-33 edge into the locker room.
The Knights continued to hang tough for much of the third quarter, cutting it to 49-40 on Young’s runner. But Noland ignited an 11-2 run, then Shorter made three consecutive buckets to close out the period with the Indians up 66-49.
WHS enjoyed as much as a 21-point lead in the fourth before settling for the final 19-point margin.
“You just have to stick with it and realize it’s a long game,” Gober said. “We finally settled down and did a better job of keeping people out of the paint. They were driving down our throat early and we weren’t doing much about it. We settled that down and did a much better job of pushing the ball and distributing it than we did early.”
On Friday night, the Runnin’ Indians placed four players in double-digit scoring as they defeated iSchool, 77-68, at Mike Turner Gymnasium for their third win in as many outings.
Noland led the way once again with 26 points, including 12 of Waxahachie’s 19 points in a sizzling first period. Russ finished with 18 points, Lake with 14 and Francis with 11 for the Indians.
After Thanksgiving, on Saturday, the Indians will face West Memphis (Ark.) in the Thanksgiving Hoop Fest at Duncanville High School. West Memphis was an Arkansas Class 5A state semifinalist last season.