By TONY EIERDAM
Mineral Wells head boys basketball coach Aaron Pappas came into Tuesday’s season opener at home against Fort Worth Eastern Hills knowing he had strong returning front-court personnel, but was unsure of his inexperienced guards.
The only guard who saw significant minutes varsity last year was Dashawn Hicks, a junior who was penciled in as a starter for this season.
In the opener, Hicks did not disappoint, scoring a team-high 16 points to lead the Rams to a 56-50 victory over the Highlanders at the MWHS gym.
“This was a good victory against a very athletic and well-coached team,” Pappas said. “I thought all of the kids did a good job, although we struggled at times.
“It was a total team effort, and I can’t say enough about how hard the kids work in practice. Their hard work paid off (Tuesday).”
“The young guards stuck it out, and I thought Dashawn had a really good game.”
In the front court, Matt “Moose” Tincher finished with 14 points, A.J. Williams added eight and 6-4 post Ricky Scott finished with seven.
“I thought Moose had a good game, and Ricky did a good job on the boards,” Pappas continued. “We can only get better from here. With all of our new (varsity) players, we are still working on chemistry. There were some football guys I didn’t get in, but we will need them to give us some minutes.
“I thought Moose was tired at points in the game, but it was hard to think about taking him out because I needed him offensively.”
The game looked like a rout early as the Rams jumped out to a 13-2 lead. Tincher nailed a pair of three-point buckets in the run, and Cris Valdez added a put back and a free throw.
However, the Highlanders, answered and went on a 16-6 run to cut the MWHS lead to 19-18 with 3:37 left in the second quarter.
The Rams fired back and scored 10 unanswered points to end the half. Williams was four-for-four at the line in the run, and he added a layup off a pinpoint feed from Biren Clardy, a sophomore new to varsity.
Clardy also set up another new player, sophomore Juvaree Sutton, who scored on a layup from the left side.
Hicks closed the first-half scoring by hitting one of two charity shots as the Rams led 29-18 at the break.
But just when fans thought Eastern Hills would fold up its tent, the Highlanders stormed back and went on a 13-2 run to tie the contest, 31-31, with 3:10 left in the third period.
At this point, a determined Hicks took over. He connected on a three-pointer from the left baseline, and after an EHHS turnover, Hicks drove the lane, scored on a layup and was fouled. He calmly hit the free throw to give the Rams a 37-31 lead.
Eastern Hills managed to whittle the lead to 52-49 with 1:34 left to play, but on the Rams’ ensuing possession Williams threw a behind-the-back pass to Clardy, whop scored on a layup for a 54-49 lead with 1:14 remaining in the contest.
Eastern Hills got to the charity stripe nine seconds later, and after hitting the first free throw missed the second. Fittingly, it was Hicks who grabbed the huge rebound.
Scott closed the scoring on a put back with 21 seconds left to play to put the game away.
“This will teach us how to play in close games,” Pappas said. “The kids could have folded up when Eastern Hills came back those few times, but instead the guys fought hard and finished off the game.”
EHHS 64, Rams JV 43
Eastern Hills’ junior varsity went on a 22-5 run in the third quarter to break open a close contest as the Highlanders defeated the Rams JV, 64-43.
Nick Wendt scored 12 points to lead the Rams, with Maceo Williams adding seven.
Also scoring for the Rams were Braxton Allen, Justin Hendrickson, Rosco Williams, Devon Edmond and Dalton Mitchell, each with three points, and Coy Barrick and Tanner Newsom, each with two.
Eastern Hills also defeated the Rams freshman team.
By TONY EIERDAM
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