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Ennis shoots past Waco Lions with 25-4 run

Lions capture crucial win via best quarter of the season
In Ennis’ district opener, it led the Waco Lions most of the way only to see the red team steal a road win at the end.
Payback was sweet for Ennis (5-19, 3-5) on Wednesday night. Waco went up 8-2 and led by double digits for most of the ballgame as it soared into a 14-point advantage early in the fourth quarter.
From there, the maroon team was magical with a 25-4 run en route to a 61-54 triumph. Don’t be fooled by Ennis’ season record; coach Jerry Mason’s squad is 3-2 in its last-five ballgames with three gritty road victories. Mason wasn’t a happy man after his team had another lackluster first quarter, but he certainly enjoyed the fourth-quarter heroics.
“The guys didn’t come out like a team that still had a chance in the playoff race and it was frustrating as coaches because we had to waste some early timeouts,” Mason said.
“They finally found a pulse and we needed to get this win. Waco’s had some changes in the program and they had some younger kids out there like we do.
“If we didn’t have the huge fourth quarter we would’ve lost after being down by so many. Jordan [Mason] hit some shots and helped us get a big road win.”
Freshman scoring sensation Jordan Mason was limited to seven points in the first game against Waco – his fewest against any district opponent by far. Saddled by foul trouble, Jordan appeared headed for a similar fate on Wednesday with six points through three quarters. With his team down 14, Mason stepped back on the court and hit a trio of three-pointers in just over a minute as he rolled to an 18-point fourth quarter (24 points, 2 steals).
“When I was sitting on the bench in foul trouble, I was thinking that I had to make an impact when I came back in,” Jordan said.
“We were down by a good margin and I tried to make something happen.”
J.T. Florence (16 points, 11 rebounds, 5 steals) and Xavier Tarrant (13 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) were also outstanding for Ennis, while freshman Kyle Anderson (5 points, 3 rebounds, steal, 2 blocks) stepped up in the second half.
The first quarter saw Waco well on its way to a blowout victory as it went up 8-2 and then 16-7. Missed jumpers, a lack of rebounding and turnovers plagued the maroon Lions as a Derrick Green three-pointer marked the offensive highlight.
The bright spot for Ennis in the first was definitely defensive hustle plays to the tune of five steals and three blocks. Radway brothers Jay and Jalen each blocked a shot, while Chris Randel had two steals and a block to go with his assist on the Green three.
“We just didn’t block out or hit shots early on,” the coach said.
“We’ve got guys who think they can just out-jump people [for rebounds]. That led to easy [Waco] layups and early foul trouble. We don’t play bad defense; it’s what we do after they shoot that kills us.
“If we want to stay in this [16-4A] race against good teams, we have to have better first quarters. We feed off of those defensive hustle plays and at least they were there for us early.”
Though Ennis’ offense arrived to the party in the second quarter, Waco had its best offensive frame (17-18). Not known as a jump shooter, Florence was the story of the second for Ennis as he drained a trio of three-pointers – including two off Tarrant assists – and piled up rebounds. Tarrant also assisted Mason on a reverse layup as Jordan worked his way to six first-half points. Though Waco didn’t hit all of the ensuing free throws, it converted four and-one baskets on the night – including two in the second quarter. Each time Ennis missed a jumper, it was off to the races for red Lion transition points.
“I tried to step up to be a leader in the first half when the game was getting away from us,” Florence said.
“I’ve been working hard in practice because coach said ‘you play like you practice.’”
“J.T.’s been our most consistent rebounder all year and he has a lot of fight in him,” Mason said.
“He doesn’t care how small he is; J.T. is going to go in there and make something happen. His speed is unbelievable and his shooting form was better tonight.
“It’s common sense on those and-one plays. If we are forced to foul, definitely don’t let them make the shots. Waco has athletes to get out and run and they did that off our misses.”
The third quarter was also pretty even (11-13), although the offensive production slowed down. Tarrant had a pair of steals in the quarter and hit all four of his free throws on the way to a 9-12 night at the charity stripe. Anderson stepped his game up with five points and three rebounds – including a three-pointer – in the third.
“I was more confident at the line tonight,” Tarrant said.
“I worked on my free throws all day; then I stepped up and hit them. As far as the steals, playing defense from football and having long arms makes getting them easier for me.”
“I love to see Xavier knock those free throws down because that’s been a problem for him at times,” Mason said.
“His defense is always there, but he stepped up big at the line. Kyle didn’t get off to a very good start, but he got tough and more confident as the game went.”
After the first of three Florence steals in the fourth and a Tarrant free throw, a Waco three-pointer put the home team up 50-36. In the amazing sequence that followed, Mason splashed back-to-back-to-back threes with each hoist seemingly longer than the previous one. A pair of Tarrant free throws completed an 11-0 Ennis run.
“Once we started coming back, we just had to maintain what we were doing right,” Florence said.
The red Lions tried to stop the bleeding with a putback, but Jordan was in the zone as he drove in for a layup and followed with a pull-up jumper. There was no stopping Ennis’ momentum and Jordan’s fourth three-pointer of the quarter with 95 seconds left gave the visitors their first lead at 55-54.
“Sometimes I just feel like nobody can stop me and I shouldn’t let my team down,” Jordan said.
“[Waco] was missing wide-open shots and I thought if we kept playing strong we’d come out on top. This is a big boost for us after the close loss to Waco last time.”
Waco kept up its collapse under the pressure as Florence hit all four of his free throws in the closing moments to seal the deal.
Ennis will now host Waxahachie on Friday at 8 p.m. After an 0-14 first quarter in Waxahachie several weeks ago, Ennis won the remainder of the game as it pulled within three points in the third quarter.
“We needed this one and we need to beat Waxahachie on Friday,” Tarrant said.
“We have to play Waxahachie tough and be able to hit some shots against their zone,” the coach added.
“Blocking out and playing better defense are also a must.”

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Posted by on Jan 29 2009. Filed under Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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