MINERAL WELLS —
By TONY EIERDAM
FORT WORTH – Mineral Wells head boys basketball coach Aaron Pappas has always preached defense, defense, defense to his Rams.
So when the Rams found themselves down by four points at halftime here Friday night in the boys’ District 6-3A opener at Diamond Hill, Pappas did not really have a “fire-and-brimstone” speech for his favored squad, but instead offered a bit of advice.
“At halftime, we talked about making free throws and keeping up the intensity defensively,” Pappas said. “We also talked about making those shots around the basket. We kept pounding them on the boards, and those put backs we were missing in the first half we started making them in the second half.”
The Rams appeared to listen.
Paced by 21 points and 13 rebounds from post Ricky Scott and 11 points and 14 rebounds from post A.J. Williams, the Rams came from behind to defeat the Eagles, 64-43, and finds themselves on top ,of the District 6-3A standings.
The Rams’ defensive pressure was so intense in the fourth quarter that Diamond Hill scored just eight points.
In fact, the Eagles did not have their first score in the final stanza until there was 4:11 left in the game.
By that time, the Rams had just finished an 18-0 run that put the game away.
“Our pressure got to them a little in the first half, but in the second half we turned it up a notch,” Pappas said. “They couldn’t handle our full-court pressure and turned the ball over a lot, and that led to layups for us.
“We really didn’t shoot the ball well, but (Friday) defense is what won us the game. I have not been able to say that in a long time.”
The Rams also pulled down 45 rebounds and dominated the boards in the second half.
“Ricky and A.J. played big for us,” Pappas said. “Diamond Hill is not a big team, and those two dominated in the paint.
“They rebounded on both ends and scored underneath.
“They were a big part of what we did.”
Trailing 26-22 at the half, the Rams slowly worked toward tying the game. That happened with three minutes left in the period when DaShawn Hicks, who finished with 16 points, drove down the lane and scored on a layup to tie the contest, 32-32.
However, the Eagles regained the lead on a three by forward Alfredo Anguino for a 35-32 advantage.
A put back by Hicks followed by a free throw from Scott tied the game, and after a Williams’ defensive rebound, Scott scored on a nifty baby hook from the lane to give the Rams a lead they would not relinquish.
Biren Clardy ended the third-quarter scoring on a charity shot as the Rams took a 38-35 lead into the fourth period.
MWHS pressure defense forced several Diamond Hill turnovers early in the final quarter. Clardy took advantage and fed Williams and Scott each for a layup, and Rascellis Williams, called up from the junior varsity, connected on one of two free throws to extend the lead.
Diamond Hill continued to have offensive problems, and the Rams made the hosts pay.
A layup by Williams and a put back by Scott not only gave the Rams a 47-35 lead, but frustration set in with the home team as an Eagles player was whistled with a technical foul.
Williams hit a free throw on the tech and Scott followed with a pair from the charity stripe as the Rams’ lead increased to 50-35.
Hicks took over from that point, skying for a put back and scoring on a layup after a steal, and the senior converted another layup off a pass from Clardy as what was a tight game quickly turned into a rout.
Diamond Hill’s Abel Ayala stopped the run with a layup, but the damage had already been done as the Rams led 56-38 with 4:11 left to play and cruised from that point to a 21-point victory.
Pappas said the team, which brought a four-game losing streak into the contest, was intent on getting a win.
That it came in the district opener – and on the road – made the victory sweeter.
“We needed a win to stop the bleeding, and it was even bigger seeing it was our district opener,” Pappas said. “It is also good to win that first district road game.
“Diamond Hill played tough, and it is a hostile environment in this cracker box gym. It was loud.
“I thought our kids handled the pressure well in the second half.”