By TONY EIERDAM
SPRINGTOWN – Ever since coming back from 29 down in the second half to defeat Castleberry almost two weeks ago, the Mineral Wells Rams have done a consistent job of starting fast from the opening tip.
Friday night at Springtown in a key District 6-3A showdown, it was no different.
The Rams scored 20 points in the first quarter and added 21 in the second to take a comfortable 14-point lead at the half, and when leading scorer Biren Clardy nailed a three-pointer seconds into the third quarter to extend the lead to 17, it appeared the Rams were well on their way to solidifying their position in second place in the standings.
Clardy’s three to begin the half should have been a reminder to Springtown, which fell to MWHS in the first half of district play, that the Porcupines are not ready to see the upper portion of the league standings.
Unfortunately for the Rams, the game changed after that trey.
Springtown’s defense limited the Rams to a mere two layups for the rest of the quarter, and the Porcupines put on a defensive clinic in the fourth period by not allowing a field goal and allowing only one point as the Porcupines stunned the Rams with a 54-49 comeback win that puts SHS and MWHS in a tie for second place – two games behind state-ranked No. 2 Kennedale – with three district contests remaining.
“They played good defense on Biren and Nick, and nobody else were making their shots,” Rams head coach Aaron Pappas said. Clardy, the Rams’ leading scorer, was held to 17 points – 14 of which came in the first half – while Wendt finished with six.
“Springtown,”Pappas continued, “did a good job of game planning and they made adjustments in the second half. They just slowed us down to a crawl. We had one point in the fourth quarter and just eight for the second half, an that’s not how we play.
“We simply didn’t play well in the second half, but Springtown obviously had a lot to do with that.
“(Dawson) Meek hurt us in the paint, and we got in foul trouble.
“(Rams sophomore post) Broderick (Johnson) ended up fouling out, and he is really our only guy who can guard Meek one on one in the paint. They just took it to us in the second half.”
The loss to Springtown evens up the season series. Both teams have Kennedale left to play, with the Rams finishing with Castleberry and Lake Worth and Springtown closing also with winless Diamond Hill and Castleberry.
Last year the teams tied for second place, but Springtown won the tiebreaker game to assume the second seed.
“I guess it will be just like last year, and that is assuming we can beat Castleberry and Lake Worth in our last two games,” Pappas said. The Rams continue district ply Tuesday at home against Kennedale. “We have to take care of business. Castleberry could give Springtown a scare.”
Although Springtown jumped out to a 6-0 lead, the Rams came back with runs of 10-2 and 10-4 to take a 20-14 lead after the first quarter. Clardy scored seven points in the period, including a three-pointer.
In the second quarter the Rams extended their lead, finishing the quarter on a 12-3 run. Wendt hit a pair of threes, his last to close the first-half scoring as MWHS held a seemingly comfortable 41-27 lead at the half.
But in the third quarter the Porcupines’ defense took the Rams out of their offense, and after Clardy’s trey to begin the period Springtown answered with a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 44-37.
Springtown closed the period on an 8-4 run as the only buckets the hosts allowed were a pair of layups by Rascellis Williams as the Rams held a precarious 48-45 lead as the game moved to the fourth quarter.
Springtown tied the game, 48-48, after a pair of short jumpers by Dylan Ray. The Rams continued to struggle on their offensive end, either turning the ball over or missing on long attempts from the field.
Springtown took the lead for good when freshman post Books Pennington scored on a put back with 3:59 left in the contest for a 50-48 lead.
Rams forward Mark Glover scored the lone point of the quarter for MWHS when he connected on one of two free throw attempts to cut the hosts’ lead to 50-49 with 2:49 remaining.
Seven seconds later, Springtown guard Caleb Brown, who led the Porcupines with 13 points, drew a foul and hi both charity shots to extend the Porcupines’ lead to 52-49.
The Rams could barely muster a shot in the final two minutes as Springtown’s defense smothered the lane and forced turnovers. A put back by Pennington with a second left closed the scoring as Springtown celebrated its comeback win.
“Bottom line was we didn’t play well enough to win the game, and they did,” Pappas said. “It was a great job by Springtown, and we will have to go back to the drawing board and figure out ways we can get other people to score.
“We have two guys who do all the scoring, and if we don’t get some others stepping up and scoring we are going to be in trouble because teams will focus on Biren and Nick.”
MWHS 20 21 7 1 – 49
SHS 14 13 18 9 – 54
MWHS – Biren Clardy 17, Rascellis Williams 11, Nick Wendt 6, Juvaree Sutton 6, Dexter Cross 6, Mark Glover 3.