By TONY EIERDAM
Mineral Wells sophomore guard Natalie Ragland scored a game-high 21 points and junior guard Riley Bullock added 10 to lead the Lady Rams to a convincing 76-23 victory over the Castleberry Lady Lions Friday night in the District 6-3A opener at the MWHS gym.
Although the duo combined for 31 points, it was a team scoring effort as nine other Lady Rams figured in the scoring.
The Lady Rams played well offensively, but it was their defense that smothered the Lady Lions and put the game away.
“We got off to a slow start but we finally started executing our game plan,” Lady Rams head coach Leslie Holman said. “We put in a new press, and it worked well.
“I have been telling the girls all year long that our non-district schedule has been tough – we have played Santo, Decatur and several other state-ranked teams – and if we can just get to district and do the things we do well we would be OK.
“I also liked that our girls were looking to drive to the basket to score. We have got to work on shooting into the glass instead of across the glass.”
The Lady Rams won the game despite the fact that their tallest player, senior post Ashlynn Robinson, was sidelined with an ankle injury. Holman said Robinson would be in the lineup Tuesday at Lake Worth.
“I like the fact that we were able to get this win without having Ashlynn on the floor,” Holman said. “Getting her back on Tuesday will help us
underneath. She suited out (Friday night), but I didn’t want to chance playing her in a game like this.”
The Lady Rams scored on the outside and inside to begin the game.
Sophomore wing Ashley Valdez set the tone defensively when she stole the ball and drove the length of the court for a layup and a 2-0 advantage.
Ragland followed with a short jumper, Katie Rivera scored on a layup off a feed from Ragland and Bullock nailed a layup, a three from the left side and on a put back as MWHS led 13-4 after the opening period.
Paced by 13 points from Ragland, the Lady Rams scored 24 points in the second quarter to take a 37-12 lead at the half.
Ragland continued to drive to the basket to get points and/or fouls, and she was seven-for-seven from the charity strip in the second quarter, including converting a three-point play.
Junior guard Scarlett Eaton drained a three-pointer in the period, and Valdez converted another steal into an easy two points on a layup.
The Lady Rams put the game away in the third quarter with a smothering defensive effort as Castleberry managed just four points.
Offensively, the Lady Rams continued to sizzle as they put up another 24 points, led by Ragland and Courtney Peña each with six points.
The Lady Rams continued to play tough on the defensive end in the final period as they held Castleberry to seven points to seal the game.
CHS 4 8 4 7 – 23
MWHS 13 24 24 15 – 76
MWHS – Natalie Ragland 21, Riley Bullock 10, Courtney Peña 8, Ashley Valdez 8, Scarlett Eaton 8, Kera Harrison 6, Tabby Santibanez 4, Pam Hopkins 4, Carson Couger 4, Katie Rivera 3.
Upnext: The Lady Rams will play at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lake Worth.