By TONY EIERDAM
Racing out to a 21-point halftime lead due to an offensive explosion of 52 points, the Mineral Wells Rams defeated Springtown, 83-70, to stay in a tie for first place with state-ranked No. 2 Kennedale.
The Rams and Kennedale will break that tie on Friday as MWHS travels to Kennedale for an 8 p.m. tip off.
The Rams scored 26 points in each of the first and second quarters and appeared to be headed to their first 100-point game of the season.
But Springtown refused to give up and outscored MWHS 39-31 in the second half to make the score appear closer than the contest really was.
Rams head coach Aaron Pappas said the well-coached Porcupines made a successful defensive adjustment in the second half.
“We played out of our minds in the first half,” Pappas said. “Our press was hurting them in the first half and we sped up the game.
“Springtown did a good job of coming out at halftime and slowing us down, keeping us in front of them and not giving us layups and not letting us speed the game up.
“In the last three games we have had great starts – great first halves – and we wanted to score 100 against them.
“But my hat is off to (Springtown) Coach (James) Rike, he had a good plan to slow us down in the second half. They almost made a game out of it at the end.”
The Rams were scoring from the inside and outside. The outside shooters got open looks in part because of the play of Rams’ post Broderick Johnson, who recorded his first double double of the season with a game-high 11 rebounds and 16 points.
When Springtown paid attention to Johnson and athletic post Juvaree Sutton, that left shooters Nick Wendt and Biren Clardy open on the outside. Clardy finished with a team-high 23 points and Wendt scored 18 points.
“Broderick played great against a good post,” Pappas said. “I told Broderick and Juvaree that they had to give us some scoring inside to loosen up our guys on the three-point line.
“Biren and Nick started hitting threes, and they both play consistent every game. I know what I am going to get from them.
“We need our role players to step up in district and give us some minutes, scoring and defense, and they did that (Tuesday).”
The Rams ended the opening period on a 15-0 run and led 26-11 after eight minutes. Wendt nailed three three-pointers to begin the game as he hit twice from the right perimeter and again from the top of the key.
Clardy used his speed to score on three driving layups in the period, and he converted one of the layups into a three-point play when he was fouled after the play and connected on the charity shot.
With Springtown now confused about who to guard, junior forward Rascellis Williams used his speed to drive the lane and score on three layups, with each layup helped by an assist from emerging point guard Dexter Cross.
A three pointer to end the half by Maceo Williams excited the large and boisterous crowd and gave the hosts a commanding 52-31 lead at the break.
Springtown slowed the pace of the game down in the second half, but never really got back into the contest.
Johnson scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half as he and Sutton wore down the Porcupines’ big guys.
Cross also got into the scoring act as he swished a pair of three pointers in the final stanza as MWHS held on for a 13-point victory.