By CLINT FOSTER
LAKE WORTH – The Mineral Wells Lady Rams took a major step toward playoff qualification Tuesday night, earning a 46-31 statement victory on the road against the Lake Worth Ladyfrogs. The win moved Mineral Wells to 2-0 in District 6-3A play and sent a message to the rest of their opponents that this year’s Lady Ram squad is not to be trifled with.
“It was a big district win,” head coach Leslie Holman said. “That was probably the team we needed to beat to seal third place.”
The game got off to a slow start, with the score knotted at 2-2 until 4:50 left in the first quarter. But after that, the Lady Rams would never trail in the game, building a commanding lead thanks to two 7-0 runs and 67-percent shooting on free throws.
They also played some commanding defense, taking advantage of multiple Lake Worth turnovers and creating opportunities with 24 rebounds and 17 steals. The Lady Rams also closed out the game strong, holding the Ladyfrogs scoreless for the first four and a half minutes of the fourth quarter.
“The girls played really well,” Holman said. “They executed the press. They played well on offense. I’m just very proud of them.”
Junior Tabby Santibanez played strong in the first half, taking fouls and creating many of Mineral Wells’ early offensive opportunities. She totaled five points with four steals and six rebounds
But no star shone brighter than sophomore guard Natalie Ragland, who accounted for almost half of Mineral Wells’ final point total. She finished with 22 points, including a perfect 10-for-10 from the charity stripe, and collected five rebounds, eight steals and two assists. Ragland could have easily registered double-digit assists if more shots had fallen, as she played unselfishly and was finding teammates open all night.
Ragland also provided an exclamation point for the victory when she nailed a half-court shot at the buzzer to end the third quarter.
The Mineral Wells faithful – who outnumbered Lake Worth fans in attendance – erupted when her shot cleared the net and the girls celebrated with her as if they were headed to the Final Four.
“Natalie has good court awareness, she knew how much time was left and she put up the shot and it went in,” Holman said smiling. “You’ve got to know how much time’s left on the clock.”
The Lady Ram who came closest to Ragland’s 22 points was senior captain Courtney Peña who scored eight points to go along with three rebounds and three steals. Senior Ashlynn Robinson also stood out in her first game returning from injury. She tied Santibanez for the team lead in rebounds with six, in addition to four points.
“She was a big factor inside,” Holman said of Robinson. “When she went out with five fouls, it kind of worried me. But Kera (Harrison) went in for her and held her own.”
The win truly was a big one for the Lady Rams, who will have an opportunity to improve to 3-0 in district against Diamond Hill on Friday. But don’t expect the success to go to their heads. Holman is determined for her team to stay focused during the most important part of their schedule.
“We’re 2-0 and that puts us in a good spot in district, but we can’t stop there,” she said. “We’ve got to continue to prepare for each district game that’s coming up in the next couple of weeks.”
MWHS 10 11 18 7 – 46
LWHS 4 5 13 9 – 31
MWHS – Natalie Ragland 22, Courtney Peña 8, Tabby Santibanez 5, Ashlynn Robinson 4, Riley Bullock 4, Katie Rivera 2, Scarlett Eaton 1.
Up next: The Lady Rams will play at 6:30 p.m. at home Friday against Diamond Hill.