By TONY EIERDAM
After both the Mineral Wells Lady Rams and Rams basketball teams got back into the win column on Tuesday, the teams are riding that momentum into today’s home District 6-3A contests against Lake Worth.
The girls’ game will tip off at 6:30 p.m. followed by the boys’ contest at 8 p.m. at the MWHS gym.
Both teams sit in the upper tier of the 6-3A standings, with the Rams at 3-1 occupying second place and the 4-2 Lady Rams tied with Springtown for second place, although the Lady Porcupines currently hold the tiebreaker by virtue of a win against MWHS earlier in district play.
The Lady Rams have been playing without starting forward Ashley Valdez for the past two weeks as she suffered a concussion on Jan. 10.
On Tuesday in the win over Castleberry the Lady Rams were also without the services of leading scorer Natalie Ragland, a sophomore guard, who like Valdez is expected to return for today’s game.
But in the pair’s absence Lady Rams head coach Leslie Holman found that she has depth as she called on guards Courtney Peña and Riley Bullock to run the offense with Ragland out, and the coach seems to have made the right move by elevating sophomore wing Maddie Pappas from the junior varsity to varsity.
Pappas had a breakout game Tuesday with a game-high 20 points, and after the game Holman remarked that the varsity newcomer has earned extended playing time.
“I thought Maddie did a nice job of going to the hole, and we got some offense out of her,” Holman said. “I also thought Courtney played a good game. She was hitting her shots early and she ran the offense well.
“But Courtney and Riley stepped up and took leadership roles, and that was what I wanted to see.”
The Lady Rams began Tuesday’s game with just six points in the first quarter.
But when Holman changed the defense it led to instant offense as the MWHS ladies followed with a 25-point second quarter that put the game away.
“Our defense created turnovers on the press,” Holman said. “We weren’t cutting their passes off in the middle, so in the second quarter I made some adjustments on the press and that allowed us to create steals and get some easy buckets off the press.
“Part of the reason we got going (offensively) was our defense that created turnovers on the press.”
Folks in town are still talking about the Rams’ 29-point comeback in their 65-62 win over Castleberry on Tuesday. The Rams went into the fourth quarter of that game trailing by 21 points, but outscored the Lions 32-8 in the final stanza to take the win.
Rams head coach Aaron Pappas feels the team learned a lesson with its slow start, something he is almost certain will not happen today against Lake Worth.
In the past two years, these two teams have played four tough, emotional games.
Against Lake Worth, the Rams will need to play with the same defensive intensity for the entire game as they displayed in the fourth quarter against Castleberry.
“I thought the kids did a great job defensively in the second half (at Castleberry),” Pappas said. “They got stops and rebounded the ball.
“In my coaching career that is one of the biggest comebacks I have experienced.
Pappas said the Castleberry game should help the team’s confidence that it can pull out a game no matter the situation.
“I didn’t like being down 27 at the half, but these kids fought hard and did what it took on both sides of the court to win the game,” Pappas said. “It also helped our confidence.
“If you can come back from 21 down in the fourth quarter it has to give you confidence in any situation in the future.”