By TONY EIERDAM
Mineral Wells head boys basketball coach Aaron Pappas insists that his team plays hard from start to finish no matter what the score is or what team is winning.
So when the Rams found themselves trailing by 24 points as their game against Fort Worth Country Day Tuesday afternoon at the MWHS gym entered the fourth quarter, the coach once again reminded his team that it had to finish the contest going all out.
The Rams came back to cut the lead to four points as Country Day rested its starters in the final stanza, but MWHS came away with a good feeling as it avoided what looked like a certain blowout.
Country Day hung on for a 57-52 win as the Rams (2-1) suffered their first loss of the young season.
“(Country Day coach Joe Breedlove) had his starters out of the game in the fourth quarter, and I guess he felt confident that they could finish the game off,” Pappas said. “But I told the kids we were not going to stop until the final buzzer.
“The kids played hard in the fourth quarter, but we got way behind (in the first three quarters) and just got outclassed on both ends of the floor.”
The Falcons scored the game’s first seven points and led 19-7 after the first quarter. Country Day’s height and stifling defense made it difficult for the Rams to find open shooters.
Playing outstanding defense and dominating under the boards, Country Day extended its lead to 31-17 at the half.
Country Day put the defensive clamps on the Rams in the third period, holding MWHS to five points while scoring 15 to take a 46-22 lead into the fourth quarter.
“Country Day is so long and athletic, and we had a hard time getting shots off,” Pappas said. “Right now I have some of my best shooters in big time slumps, and we are having trouble making the ball go in the basket.
“But I credit a lot of that to Country Day’s defense. They played extremely well defensively, and they are well coached. I just think we got outclassed form the opening tip. Country Day is by far the toughest team we have seen this year.”
With Country Day playing its reserves, the Rams quickly cut the lad to 14 points courtesy of an 11-1 run, sparked by consecutive three-point buckets by sophomore guard Biren Clardy.
Country Day led 55-37 with three minutes left to play before the Rams got hot from the floor. Junior guard Reece Tarver hit back-to-back jumpers, including a three, and a put back from senior post Ricky Scott – who led MWHS with eight rebounds – cut the lead to 55-46 with 1:38 remaining in the contest.
With 1:08 left, Country Day missed a pair of free throws, and the Rams took advantage as Tarver drained a three-pointer from the left baseline to cut the Falcons’ lead to 55-49 with 42 seconds left to play.
The Rams were forced to foul, but the Falcons connected on one of two shots to increase their lead to 56-49 with 21 ticks left on the clock.
Scott showed his outside shooting ability when he canned a three from the right perimeter to slice the Country Day lead to 56-52 with 15 seconds remaining.
With seven seconds left MWHS was forced to foul, but the Falcons hit one of two charity shots to seal the win.
“I liked the way we finished, and that is a big positive,” Pappas said. “I got to see some of the young guys in there at the end. Reece and Biren shot the ball well. Reece was lights-out in the fourth quarter, and he has earned himself some more playing time.
“But as a whole, we are not shooting very well, and until we start knocking down some shots we will struggle offensively.”
FWCD 19 12 15 11 – 57
MWHS 7 10 5 30 – 52
MWHS – Ricky Scott 14, Biren Clardy 12, Reece Tarver 8, A.J. Williams 6, Cris Valdez 4, Juvaree Sutton 2, Ty Ashley 2, Matt Tincher 2.