By TONY EIERDAM
Even with a 5-3 record to begin the season, the Mineral Wells Rams are still trying to find their way.
Head coach Aaron Pappas is working in new players to varsity and trying new combinations each game, and sometimes the inexperience and lack of chemistry shows.
Tuesday night in a non-district game at the MWHS gym, Decatur forced 24 turnovers and flustered the Rams as the Eagles came away with a 69-52 win.
Pappas wanted to try something different against the Eagles, and early on the strategy was successful as the Rams led 12-7 after the opening period.
“We thought we were going to slow it down, but when they went to a 2-2-1 press we kind of switched gears,” Pappas said. “We wanted to attack that zone kind of like we did last year (in the playoffs) against Burkburnett, but we are not the same team we were last year and it didn’t work out (Tuesday).
“We had too many turnovers, which just killed us. We shot a lot of free throws, and shot a pretty good percentage, but when you turn the ball over that many times you are not going to beat anybody.”
Pappas is also trying to work in new defenses, and Tuesday started out in a zone before the Eagles got hot from outside.
“We got into a couple of different zones, and we looked good at times,” Pappas said. “But they shot the three ball pretty good, and it forced us out of our zone in the second half and we went to playing man.
“That wasn’t good for us because they are quicker than we are at all five positions.
“We just got outclassed by a better team, and Decatur played a great game. But it is still a process. We have to tinker with some things.”
The Rams began the contest with a patient game on offense, and senior post Ricky Scott nailed a three-point basket from the left perimeter to begin the game.
Decatur was frustrated by the Rams’ zone early and did not score until hitting a three with 3:51 left in the opening period which tied the game at 3-3.
MWHS went ahead 8-5 after a jumper from Scott in the lane, a free throw by senior forward A.J. Williams and a jumper by sophomore point guard Biren Clardy.
Scott led the Rams with 19 points, while Williams turned in a double double with 10 points and a team-high 12 rebounds.
Scott continued to stay hot from the field and drained a jump shot from the right baseline to close the first-quarter scoring as the Rams led by five points.
Decatur went on a quick 10-5 run to tie the contest at 17, then went ahead by six points when the Rams committed consecutive fouls after made layups in a 10-second span. The Eagles hit both charity shots to cap the two three-point plays.
Trailing 25-17, the Rams came back with a 10-2 run to tie the score.
Junior guard DaShawn Hicks went four-for-four from the charity stripe in the run, Clardy hit a perimeter jumper, and senior post Cris Valdez completed a three-point play after scoring on a layup, getting fouled, and connecting on the charity shot.
Decatur hit a short jumper at the buzzer to take a 29-27 lead into the locker room at the half.
With game still close halfway through the third quarter, the Eagles hit three consecutive three-pointers to take a 44-33 lead.
The Eagles closed the third period with a 10-point lead and finished off the Rams with an 18-point fourth quarter.
Pappas said the team will need more time lo develop chemistry and find the right combinations in certain situations.
“I think we are going to have to get in our bench more, and that’s got to come from me.
“I have to find some guys who can come off the bench and execute on offense and play good defense and give some of those starters a rest.
“The starters played a lot of minutes.”
By TONY EIERDAM
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