MANSFIELD — If it weren't for arguably the Runnin' Indians' most complete game, Tuesday might have been the Jahmius Ramsey show.
Nineteen forced turnovers and one of the best first half performances in recent memory, however, helped trump Ramsey's surge and send Waxahachie into the Christmas break with a 78-62 district victory against Mansfield Summit High School at MSHS Gymnasium.
So did making the extra pass.
"They distributed the ball well, weren't selfish with it and moved it to the open guy," said Greg Gober, the head boys' basketball coach at Waxahachie High School. "That's how you play basketball. You don't see too many teams win when there are a lot of first-pass shoot situations. You're generally not a very good team if that's what you do. We've got a lot of good players and we work well when they all have an opportunity to score."
The (10-4, 1-0) Runnin' Indians handed out assists on 21 of their 30 made field goals — a season high. Five of the nine players that touched the court on Tuesday had two or more assists.
During a second-quarter possession, Waxahachie made 13 passes before finding Tevin Wofford streaking down the baseline for an open basket. The team also averaged seven passes per possession during the win.
"We really don't know where these guys' potential is but we try to get closer and closer to it each week," Gober continued, noting his team's ceiling when his players commit to rotating the ball to find open shooters. "Who knows what they can truly do until we see it on the court? We've never experienced it."
Behind Ramsey (26 pts) and his NBA-quality Euro step and Cameron Jones' (12 pts) deft mid-range jumper, Mansfield Summit forced the issue and catapulted to a 23-21 first-quarter lead. That was the first and last quarter the Jaguars won, as Waxahachie outscored their district rivals 57-39 in the next 24 minutes.
Larry Wise's deadly touch from outside and Mar'Quaylen Grant's willingness to penetrate the Jaguar defense first kept the Runnin' Indians in the game, then helped the team create an insurmountable deficit.
Five different Indians — including leading scorers Mar'Quaylen Grant (21 pts) and Larry Wise (19 pts) — scored in double figures. Only one of the five finished with a shooting percentage lower than 62 percent.
Wofford, Xavier Thompson and Jaylen Warren added 14, 11 and 10 points, respectively. Wofford, who recived his first varsity starting nod, helped ease Wise back into the lineup after being hampered with a knee injury.
"Larry's been sitting out for two weeks, hasn't practiced or played in that time and just got released," Gober said. "Pretty good game for just getting released. "Tevin's done a great job doing a lot of dirty work, taking charges, blocking out, rebounding and scoring when needed. Tevin's been a big reason of why we've been able to play without Larry."
Throughout the first 16 minutes of basketball, Waxahachie shot 10-for-20 (50 percent) from the field and finished 6-for-10 on 3-point attempts. Wise, who scored 12 of his total on 4-for-4 shooting from behind the arc, hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter.
Thompson, a senior forward and the team's third-leading scorer against Mansfield Summit, had four assists and junior Montrae Gipson had a team-leading 10. Gipson (3 pts), who posted a 3-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, added four of the Runnin' Indians' 15 steals and a third quarter 3-pointer.
Waxahachie also beat the Jaguars by 16 points despite losing the rebounding and free throw battles. Mansfield Summit outrebounded them 24-22 and shot 70 percent from the free throw line.
The Runnin Indians finished 10-for-19 (52.6 percent) from the charity stripe and had only eight attempts in the second half. Though his team struggled in areas and played far from its ceiling, Gober said, it's always better to start the district schedule with a win 1-0 rather than 0-1.
"That's what everybody wants to be," he said. "Every team's 0-0 when district begins and all of them want to start 1-0. It doesn't work out that way for every team. It makes it better when you can do it on the road. It makes a big difference because [at the end of the season] you're going to need these games."
With the Jan. 3 matchup with Red Oak High School looming in the distance, Gober said there is plenty of room for improvement to prepare for a long stretch — starting with the three-day, 32-team Dallas ISD Holiday Invitational, better known as the Coca-Cola Classic. Lancaster and Red Oak High Schools and Triple A Academy will join Waxahachie on the list of notable schools attending the tournament.
Waxahachie is slated to play Silsbee High School at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 28 at the Ellis-Davis Field House during the first round of the tournament.
"We need to take care of the ball better," he said. "We need to block out and stay in front of our guy, rebound better and make stronger passes and better decisions. There's a lot of things we can do better. When we do those things better you're going to see a significant improvement in what we do."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter @MarcusMarionWNI.