No. 1 WHS reaches region semis

Noland leads team effort as Runnin’ Indians beat No. 9 Killeen Ellison

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
Waxahachie senior CJ Noland (22) goes in for a basket during a Class 6A Region II quarterfinal game on March 3 against No. 9-ranked Killeen Ellison at Robinson High School.

ROBINSON — Considering the Class 6A top-ranked Waxahachie Runnin’ Indians have faced and beaten numerous No. 1-ranked teams in other classifications this season, they approached their playoff game with 6A No. 9 Killeen Ellison with plenty of respect for the Eagles.

If you’re ranked in the state of Texas, you’re pretty good. But if you’re ranked No. 1 in the state’s highest classification going into the month of March, you’re really stinking good.

The deep and talented Runnin’ Indians were tested at times, but withstood every Ellison run and advanced to the 6A Region II semifinals, 78-67, on Saturday afternoon at Robinson High School.

Four players reached double digits in scoring for the Runnin’ Indians (19-2). Senior 4-star Oklahoma signee CJ Noland led the Indians with 22 points. DJ Pigford had 11 first-half points and finished with 18, and Montez Young added 16 points before fouling out with 1:54 left. Prince Banks added 11 points and V’Zarion Roberson seven.

Just as big was the return to the floor of senior 3-star Colorado State signee Jalen Lake, who missed the first two playoff games because of an unspecified injury.

Lake finished with four points, but his two baskets happened in opportune situations, including his putback of a missed layup with under a minute to go that sealed the outcome.

The Indians were scheduled to face unranked Cypress Woods (22-3), a 45-36 winner on Saturday over rival Cypress Lakes, in the Region II semifinals on Tuesday at Temple High School at 6:30 p.m. A district rematch against either No. 2 Duncanville or unranked Mansfield High looms in the Region II finals next weekend, should the Indians advance.

Because of COVID-19 precautions, the University Interscholastic League is not holding centralized regional tournaments this year.

The last time WHS made the region semis was in 2018 at the 5A level, when the Indians ran into Lancaster, losing 75-67.

The Indians closed the second quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 34-25 lead at halftime. Then Noland and Pigford each hit quick buckets to start the second half, and the Tribe were off and running.

The Eagles (27-3) cut it to nine with a flurry of 3-pointers, but WHS enjoyed as much as a 15-point lead three times in the third quarter before settling for the 11-point win. The Runnin’ Indians led 61-49 at the end of three.

In the final 2:54, the Tribe put it away at the charity stripe, with Roberson making 4-of-5 and Noland making 5-of-6.