MINERAL WELLS —
By TONY EIERDAM
Mineral Wells head boys basketball coach Aaron Pappas was rightfully discouraged Tuesday night after the Rams fell to state-ranked No. 7 Burkburnett by 31 points.
With District 6-3A play starting today for the Rams (10-12) at 8 p.m. at Fort Worth Diamond Hill, he wanted his team to at least play well and ride the momentum into league play.
But Burkburnett is ranked high for a reason, and if anything it gave the team a look at what it may be like to face the 6-3A favorite, state-ranked No. 3 Kennedale.
But for today, the focus is on Diamond Hill and winning that first district contest.
“(The Burkburnett) game is over, and we have to focus on Diamond Hill,” Pappas said.
The Rams still are a work in progress, and there have been several bright spots.
Ricky Scott, an inside and outside scoring threat, leads the team with a 14 points per game average, followed by DeShawn Hicks with 11 points per game, Biren Clardy with 10 points per contest and A.J. Williams with eight points per game.
Hicks is a lightning-fast shooting guard who drives hard to the basket in either the lane or on the baseline.
Clardy, in his first year on varsity, is a talent that is learning and improving each week. He can also drive the lane, and is getting more adapt at kicking the ball out on dribble drives to the open man.
“Ricky has been our go-to guy lately,” Pappas said. “He can score inside and outside, and he hits the tough shots as well.
“Biren is just a sophomore, but he has been playing well lately and doing a good job of running the offense.
“DeShawn is our second-leading scorer, and we are trying to get him going; we really feel like he should score more. He gets a lot of looks in a game and takes a lot of shots, but when he is not on he struggles a little bit.
“We almost have four guys who are in double figures, but we need to get some bench players to come off the bench and score for us. If we can get that, we will be a hard team to defend.”
Although the Rams are defending district champions, Pappas said the team to beat in 6-3A is state-ranked No. 3 Kennedale.
“Kennedale is the team to beat,” Pappas said. “They average 72 points per game, and there is a reason they are ranked so high. I think every other team in our district scores in the mid-to-high 50s.
“We are not the favorite by any means, and Kennedale is definitely the favorite.
“But we feel like we have the personnel to compete with them, and hopefully we can take a shot at winning a consecutive district championship.
“But if not, are main focus is to get into the playoffs.”
Another addition to the Rams’ district schedule is Springtown, a Parker County rival of sorts. Pappas feels the proximity-rivalry will be extremely fierce and competitive.
“Right now, Lake Worth is the only team in the district that is struggling,” Pappas said. “They are 5-16, and everyone else is above or hovering around .500.
“Springtown, Castleberry and Diamond Hill have winning records, so it will be a battle for the rest of the teams to get those other two playoff spots.
“I think we have already established a rivalry with Springtown when we played them at the Jacksboro tournament (in November).
“It got a little heated at the end of that game. Even though we beat them by 13 points, I feel like they didn’t play their best game that day.
“They will be prepared for us in district. But we have a rivalry with them, and those two games we play against them in district will be fun, but will be stressful as well.
“No doubt about it, Springtown is a team that will compete for a playoff spot.”
When asked if he likes where the Rams are at this point of the season, Pappas had mixed feelings.
“Yes and no,” Pappas said. “It is hard to say with a record like we have, and hard to say when you don’t yet have a defensive identity.
“It’s hard to know what we are going to get night in and night out when we are so inconsistent on the defensive end.
“Last year at this time we were playing such good defense I felt we could be in any game and have a good chance to beat anybody we played.
“This year, I don’t really feel that way, but in the same breath I have a lot of faith in these kids, and I think they will get the job done.
“I know expectations are high, and even though we are not the same team, we have a lot of expectations to live up to, and these guys are up for that challenge.”