A crosstown rivalry moved across town, giving it a new twist. However, one thing stayed constant: University remains kings of the court in Waco.
The district-leading Trojans used their frenetic fast break to outrun rival Waco High, 82-67, on Friday night at The Highlands on the campus of McLennan Community College.
Waco ISD moved the game to MCC in anticipation of a large crowd, and it turned out to be a wise decision. Waco ISD athletic director Johnny Tusa estimated the attendance at 1,200 to 1,500, though he added that district officials wouldn’t know the exact figure until Saturday morning when all the gate receipts were tabulated.
Even taking into account his team’s perch atop the District 18-5A standings, University coach Rodney Smith was satisfied to escape with a win in a classic “throw out the records”-type contest.
“Year in and year out (it’s a great rivalry). We could be No. 1, they could be No. 1, the other team could be terrible, it’s going to be a game,” Smith said. “No matter what. You’ve got to love these rivalries, it’s great for the crowd, great for WISD. I just love ‘em.”
The action electrified the crowd at the start. University’s Jibreal Washington threw down an early flush after an offensive rebound, while Waco High managed to keep things close for the first five minutes of the game, using the 3-point bomb as its primary weapon.
But the Trojans (18-8 overall, 4-0 in district) began to separate themselves with their hyperactive defensive pressure, which ignited an effective transition game. University closed the final three minutes of the first quarter on a 13-5 run, highlighted by a sweet spinner from Tim Wilkerson after a steal.
That helped the Trojans build a 27-17 lead after one quarter, and they were only beginning to find their pace. Senior guard Umoja Gibson, a Super Centex standout from last year, showed off his outside stroke, banging down four treys in the first half and five for the game en route to 21 points.
University also displayed some nifty passing, led by the backcourt of Gibson and Wilkerson. And Justin Williams proved pesky throughout the night, as the six-foot swingman routinely sneaked inside for offensive rebounds, often scoring on a putback or drawing a foul. Williams finished with a team-high 23 points.
“Young kid, junior, he just plays so hard,” Smith said of Williams. “You’ve got to keep a body on him. You don’t know until after the game, you go back and look at film and go, ‘Dang, we should’ve blocked this kid out.’ A great kid, does what he’s asked to do, and I love him to death like I love them all.”
After Gibson bottomed out a trey and Williams dropped in a layup on some hot-potato passing late in the second quarter, the Trojans stretched their lead to 49-30 by the halftime break.
The Lions (9-17, 0-4) have been breaking in some new faces this year, as they’ve got a new head coach in Earl Farley as well as a new starting backcourt following the graduation of Zarious Wilson, who’s now at MCC, and Larry Bush.
Senior D.J. Montgomery showed that he’s capable of picking up the slack for the Lions. The 5-foot-11 guard attacked the basket with reckless abandon throughout the night and never stopped playing hard. He supplied a game-high 29 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter.
But Montgomery didn’t quite have the help that Gibson and the Trojans had. Waco High’s next-leading scorer was Tony Caufield with nine.
In contrast, University put four players in double figures. In addition to Williams and Gibson, Antoine Hailey hit for 12 points, including a couple of rewind-the-DVR dunks, one off an alley-oop feed from Gibson and a powerful one-handed jam on a runout. Alayiss Montgomery gave the Trojans some good minutes off the bench, and tallied 11 points.
Despite the win, Smith still wants more from his squad. The Trojans are eyeing another district title and are hopeful of making a deep playoff run, and Smith said that they’ve still got to get a lot better to make that happen.
“We’re a much better team than it showed at times. Those are the times that keep me up at night,” he said. “When we can play good for four minutes and then for two minutes you look like you ain’t never played basketball. That bothers me.
“We’ve still got a lot to work on. The road along is still long. It’s still long, but I’ll take the win. Coach Farley has his guys fighting. He has his guys fighting, and hat’s off to him. But tonight belonged to the Trojans.”
Waco High 46, University 36
Montierra Warren scored six of her game-best 14 points in the fourth quarter, and the Lady Lions pulled out the girls’ edition of the Waco ISD rivalry at The Highlands.
University forced some late turnovers and cut the gap to six in the fourth quarter. But Waco High made five free throws down the stretch to close it out.
Perrisha Cox added 11 points for the Lady Lions (10-12, 2-2).
Elaina Tate and Lyric McGowan paced University with nine points apiece.