It would seemingly be impossible for a skilled, 6-foot-7 big man to get lost in the shuffle on a high school basketball team. But given the amount of weapons that No. 1-ranked University possesses, that sometimes happens with senior center Jibrael Washington.
On Tuesday, however, you couldn’t miss Washington.
The senior made his presence known in the paint on both ends of the court to help anchor the Trojans’ 68-50 win over their crosstown rival from Waco High at McLennan Community College’s Highlands Gym.
Washington scored 11 points, yanked down 10 rebounds and swatted away five shots for the Trojans (24-8 overall, 10-0 in District 18-5A), who clinched the district championship with the victory. While Washington wasn’t University’s leading scorer on the night, his towering efforts down low forced Waco High’s defenders to sag with extra defenders, thus opening up more space for the Trojans’ ever-dangerous shooters.
“That’s something we’ve been working on the past couple of games,” University coach Rodney Smith said. “Let him get some touches. Let him get some feels, and that’s going to open it up for our 3-point guys. Looking forward and moving on, I think that’s going to be big for us.”
Records rarely seem to make a difference when Waco ISD rivals encounter one another. Waco High (10-22, 1-9) played with plenty of fire and energy, and cut a nine-point halftime deficit to four with a 7-2 run to start the third quarter.
But the Trojans own a rarely-rivaled ability to switch gears and separate in a hurry. University cranked up the defensive pressure, creating several fast break-igniting turnovers. Umoja Gibson also banged in a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter, as he tossed in 10 of his 18 points in the period. Antoine Hailey, who led all scorers with 21 points, banked in a trey of his own, and Corey Montgomery added the dagger with a clock-beating trey at the third-quarter buzzer.
It all added up to a 22-3 spurt for University, and the Lions’ chances at an upset evaporated.
“When our guys buckle down and play basketball, it’s great to see,” Smith said. “But then you’ve got the Trojans that sometimes veer off. That’s what we’re trying to get away from. I am proud of our guys defensively. If not for a couple of offensive rebounds, it would’ve been real low for (Waco High).”
Not only did University display a deft shooting touch from outside the arc, the Trojans rocked the rim with several dunks. Gibson, who delivered seven assists, broke down Waco High’s defense off the drible before hitting Hailey for a couple of alley-oop slams, while Washington made a powerful pivot and one-handed flush in the fourth quarter.
Waco High played hard to the end, outscoring University, 22-17, in the final quarter. The always-aggressive D.J. Montgomery topped the Lions with 15 points, while Dale Smith contributed 12.
Unfortunately for the Lions, University had the game well in hand by that point.
“Man, hat’s off to Coach (Earl) Farley, they did play us well,” Smith said. “I thought at times we didn’t execute. Which is typical of these games, these rivalry games. But I’m proud of my guys, they found a way to pull it out. And that’s all that counts. Find a way to get it right and pull it out.”
Midway 83, San Angelo Central 47
The Panthers came out running and gunning, producing one of their best offensive efforts of the season in a blowout win over the visiting Bobcats.
“I told them, I’m taking the reins off. Let’s go shoot the ball,” first-year Midway coach Brad Chasteen said in his postgame radio interview. “It made it more unselfish. You never know what to do with teenagers. They responded well tonight.”
Playoff-bound Midway (25-6 overall, 9-3 in 8-6A) secured no less than third place in the district with the runaway win. And the Panthers ensured that outcome early on, outscoring the Bobcats (15-15, 3-9) by a 29-11 count in the opening quarter.
Big man Bubba Furlong controlled the glass and scored a team-high 18 points for Midway. Jordan Maxwell and Levi Whiddon picked up eight points each in the Panthers’ balanced attack.
Vanguard 68, Dallas Shelton 18
The Vikings hit the Chargers from all angles in an easy district romp.
Six players scored eight points or more for Vanguard (29-7, 10-0), and four cracked double figures. Those were Elijah Wade with 13 points, Spencer Davis and Eloy Ibarra with 11 points apiece, and Kobe Thomas with 10.
La Vega 48, Connally 41
Behind an 18-point scoring effort from post Ta’Naiya Norwood, La Vega held off the rival Lady Cadets.
Shekenia Green swished in 13 points for La Vega (9-3 in District 17-4A). Connally was led by 18 points from Heaven Lang-Tucker.
Lorena 58, China Spring 50
Senior sharpshooter Carly Campbell tickled the nets for 18 points, and the Lady Leopards snapped China Spring’s winning streak at eight.
The teams ended up splitting the season series.
Abbie Snyder had 14 points to pace China Spring (18-10, 9-3).
It was a nice bounce-back game for Lorena (23-9, 8-4), which lost to Gatesville the last time out. Michelle Runyan scored 15 points for the Lady Leopards, and Steelie Priest had 14.