By TONY EIERDAM
It was a roller coaster season for the Mineral Wells boys basketball team as the Rams finished the 2012-13 campaign with a 17-17 overall record.
The Rams’ season ended in the first round of the playoffs when Burkburnett defeated MWHS, 81-59, in the Class 3A, Region I bi-district playoffs.
Despite an early exit from postseason play, the Rams have established a pattern of reaching the playoffs the past four year, the last two under head coach Aaron Pappas.
Last season, in Pappas’ first year as Rams head coach, he guided the Rams to the third round of the playoffs.
Pappas hopes the younger players have bought into the concept that the MWHS boys have established a solid program and a program that is a threat to not only qualify but go deep in the playoffs every year.
Like last season, this year the Rams had several new players that Pappas wanted to see in different combinations and rotations.
As a result, the non-district portion of the season was up-and-down as MWHS went into district play with a 10-13 mark.
Pappas said he was pleased with his offense going into district play, but was uncertain defensively.
“It is hard to say how I feel about our team at this point with a record like we have, and hard to say how I feel since we did’t yet have a defensive identity (before district play began),” he said. “It’s hard to know what we are going to get night in and night out when we are so inconsistent on the defensive end.
“Last year at this time we were playing such good defense I felt we could be in any game and have a good chance to beat anybody we played.
“This year, I don’t really feel that way, but in the same breath I have a lot of faith in these kids, and I think they will get the job done.
“I know expectations are high, and even though we are not the same team, we have a lot of expectations to live up to, and these guys are up for that challenge.”
The Rams finished a respectable 7-3 in District 6-3A play, sweeping Fort Worth Diamond Hill, Lake Worth and Castleberry.
MWHS lost twice to district champion Kennedale – the third-ranked team in the state in Class 3A – and split a pair of games with Springtown, with each team winning at home.
Both Mineral Wells and Springtown finished the district slate with identical 7-3 records, and the two teams would face off in a tiebreaker game to determine the second and third seeds in the playoffs.
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The significance of the game was in the playoff positioning each would receive. Neither team wanted to lose the tiebreaker game and finish in third due to the third-place team from 6-3A matching up with state-ranked No. 6 Burkburnett in the opening round. Burkburnett had defeated the Rams earlier in the year in non-district play, 85-54.
However, in that second-place tiebreaker game, Springtown went on a second-quarter roll and defeated the Rams, 70-53. The Porcupines went on a 23-11 run in the second quarter and never looked back.
“We played well in first quarter, but Springtown shot the ball extremely well for the entire game,” Pappas said. “We didn’t play our best game, and Springtown took it to us.”
The Rams would have to face Burkburnett in the opening round of the playoffs in Jacksboro, ironically the same location the Rams and Bulldogs played last year when MWHS upset Burkburnett in the area championship game when BHS was ranked No. 5 in the state.
However, the 2012 magic did not appear as Burkburnett made a statement in a 22-point win which also ended the Rams’ season.
The Rams led 12-6 in the game and 12-9 after the first quarter. But Burkburnett’s high-charged offense kicked into gear in the second quarter as the Bulldogs scored 27 points to take a 36-26 lead at the half. The Bulldogs’ offense stayed hot in the third period as Burkburnett scored 24 points to seal the win.
“We were contesting shots in the first quarter and they weren’t knocking them down,” Pappas said. “But their press wore us down in the second quarter, our legs got tired and Burk started knocking down threes.
“They went on a run and we couldn’t catch up.”
Pappas said goodbye to seniors Ricky Scott, A.J. Williams, Ty Ashley, Jacoby Prestwood, Kevin Gregory and Rylie Hill.
“A.J. was a big part of what we did this year, and he was our leading rebounder (average of nine rebounds per game),” Pappas said. “I coached him when he was in seventh and eighth grade, and I also had him when I coached the junior varsity. He will be greatly missed.
“Ricky is another I coached at the JV and varsity levels, and he was a big part of our success. We will miss his inside presence.
“But we had other great senior kids like Jacoby, Kevin, Rylie and Ty Ashley. They are good kids with great attitudes who never complain.
“Ty is a guy who came up to varsity this year in his senior year and he was probably one of our most improved players. He had a couple of big games this year. We will miss Ty quite a bit.
“Also going to miss Rylie, who was our team prankster and a lot of fun to be around. I will miss all of these seniors. They meant the world to the program, and hopefully that will filter down to our younger players.”
As for the overall team, Pappas said it was a group that gave 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time.
“The effort was always there,” Pappas said. “I have never questioned that with this group.
“Some teams were simply more skilled than us, but I have never seen a team that is as resilient and works as hard as this group of guys.”
By TONY EIERDAM
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