End of the road: No. 2 Panthers deny No. 1 WHS in region final
Noland nets 30 in final high school game for Runnin’ Indians
Except for a cold perimeter shooting start to the game for the Waxahachie Runnin’ Indians, Friday night’s Class 6A Region II championship game at a jam-packed Mike Turner Gymnasium was right there for the home team to take.
The Indians and head coach Greg Gober made important halftime adjustments, switching to a man-to-man defense that resulted in a 15-0 WHS run to start the second half.
But the Indians struggled early from the floor, the Duncanville Panthers slashed the Indians at will in the first half for some easy dunks and layups and then ran off a 13-2 run of their own in the second half, and all of that eventually led to the 6A No. 1 Indians falling to the No. 2 Panthers, 70-65.
The Indians (20-3) finished the year with their deepest advance as a Class 6A school and their first regional final appearance since 2018.
Oklahoma signee CJ Noland closed out his prep career with 30 points, including 26 in the second half as the Indians somehow clawed their way out of a 17-point halftime hole. V’Zarion Roberson added 13 points, and senior Montez Young Jr. just missed a double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds.
Other Indian scorers were Prince Banks with five, Jh’Marques Head with four, and DJ Pigford and Jalen Lake with two apiece. Lake, a Colorado State signee recovering from injury, played sparingly off the bench.
Duncanville (27-1) advanced to the 6A state semifinals and was set to take on Region I champion Richardson at Moody Coliseum in Dallas on Tuesday night.
The Tribe shot just 2-of-16 from beyond the 3-point arc in the first half, and the Panthers answered on the other end with inside buckets in bunches. Duncanville led 17-12 at the end of one and it got worse, as the Panthers expended the advantage to double digits. Duncanville outscored WHS 24-12 in the second frame to lead at halftime, 41-24.
But in the locker room, Gober was working a little Turner Magic.
The Runnin’ Indians opened the second half in a man defense, and that finally shut off the driving lanes for the Panthers. Noland started the comeback with a three-point play, then a Banks steal led to a Roberson 3-pointer from the left side and the home team was off and running with the partisans bouncing off the rafters.
The Indians cut the margin all the way down to 41-39 until a 3-pointer by Duncanville’s Aric Demings — his only bucket of the night — broke the ice.
Noland answered with a trey from the right corner to make it a 2-point game again, but Duncanville ended the third quarter on a 9-2 run and started the fourth with two straight baskets to regain control, 57-44. The Tribe didn’t get back within single digits again until the final 15 seconds, when Noland sank a 3 and then put back a miss right before the buzzer to hit 30 for the night.
Sam Houston State signee Damon Nicholas led the Panthers with 20 points, followed by Alabama State pledge Juan Reyna with 15 and SMU signee Zhuric Phelps and Ron Holland with 10 each. Holland added 13 rebounds.