MANSFIELD — The Runnin’ Indians’ season may come to an unfortunate end when the season concludes on Tuesday, but it will not be because of the way they’ve played during the last three games.
The Waxahachie High School boys varsity basketball team kept its playoff drive alive Friday, crushing Mansfield Legacy High School 80-56 at Mansfield Legacy High School Gymnasium. The victory, which brought them to 8-7 and fifth in the district 14-5A standings, was their third straight since the Lancaster debacle.
“It’s not like last season, when we were playing for pride. Now we’re actually playing for something,” WHS junior guard Jalen Reagor said about the difference around playoff time last year. “That’s what it all comes to. We know we can do big things this year.”
Entering their last game of the season last year, the Runnin’ Indians were 4-11 and had lost three of their last four games to Arlington Seguin, Mansfield Lake Ridge and Lancaster high schools.
Reagor’s 23-point, 8-steal and 6-assist performance helped WHS cruise to one of its easiest wins of the season, but he said it took all 14 members of their tribe to buy into the playoff chase.
He marked the Lancaster game as when the proverbial light switch clicked on.
“We learned defense is our offense,” Reagor said. “Offense isn’t going to get it in this district, we have to play defense to create offense.”
The Runnin Indians defense has been stellar throughout the last four games, forcing an average of 18.7 turnovers per game — including 24 during the Mansfield Lake Ridge matchup — against the No. 1, No. 3, No. 4 and No. 8 ranked teams in district 14-5A.
The Indians still need cross-county rival Red Oak High School’s help to reach the playoffs.
A WHS win against the Ennis High School Lions and a loss by either Mansfield Lake Ridge against Mansfield Legacy or Arlington Seguin against Red Oak would help them get into the playoffs while a Mansfield Lake Ridge loss gets the Indians into the playoffs outright and a win by Red Oak ties the records of WHS and Arlington Seguin and could present a coin flip or play scenario since they have split their season series.
Playoff or not, the upward trend of Reagor, the return of senior center Jatavius Donalson and the continued growth of sophomore Larry Wise has also added a nearly undefendable dynamic to the offense, allowing speedy guard Montrae Gipson to play off the ball and wreak havoc as a willing offensive rebounder and jump shooter.
Damien Mobley, the Runnin’ Indians head basketball coach, the move to share distributing duties with Wise has produced better-than-expected results.
Since losing to the Tigers, WHS has scored more points each game and have surpassed their district average of 66.8 points per game three times and, during that span, Wise’s assists, rebounds and points averages have all gone up.
“I haven’t really noticed it,” Wise said. “Coach keeps my head focused. He tells me what to do and I try to execute. We’re a lot better team than we were when we started the season. I had a bad start, too, and I had to make some adjustments. I couldn’t keep doing the things I was doing and think I would be successful.”
Wise said taking control of their collective destiny by winning crucial home and road games showed how hard he and his teammates worked and the resilience they have to get into the playoffs for the first time in five years.
Mobley said a combination of preparation and focus has gotten his team back into the chase and will keep them keyed in when they face Ennis High School at 8 p.m. on Tuesday at Ennis High School Gymnasium.
“Our practice sessions are pretty heated, but that keeps them focused,” Mobley said. “We can almost see the playoffs. These guys haven’t had that optimism in a while. When you’re No. 9 in a nine-team district, optimism doesn’t show his face often.”
He also said being close to playoff contention has driven his players and caused many to step up their game in the past two weeks.
“A lot of teams in our district don’t have seven guys that can be productive on a night-in and night-out basis,” Mobley continued. “I think our team has eight.”