By TONY EIERDAM
Mineral Wells Rams head basketball coach Aaron Pappas said he has been trying to seek a defensive identity for his team all season long.
The Rams have shown their fans every type of defense known to basketball including zones, zone presses, man-to-man presses, half-court presses and the like.
But Pappas finally found what he was seeking Friday night during the Rams’ convincing 65-42 victory over Bridgeport in the non-district finale at the MWHS gym.
The Rams (9-7) will begin District 6-3A play Friday at 8 p.m. at home against Fort Worth Diamond Hill.
“We have been searching for an identity defensively, and (Friday) we stuck with what we thought was going to be our defense at the beginning of the year,” Pappas said. “Leading up to this game we had played all types of zone defenses and presses.
“But it is good to know that we can play a well-coached offensive team like Bridgeport and play them man to man and shut them down and hold them to 42 points.
“This makes me very excited, and I feel overall, from top to bottom, offensively and defensively, this was our best game.”
The defense opened up the outside for the Rams, and in the second half shooting guards Biren Clardy and Nick Wendt took advantage.
With the scored tied 25-25 early in the third period, Clardy went off. He nailed back-to-back three-pointers from the left perimeter, and after a Juvaree Sutton layup, Clardy struck again from three-point land, this time from the right side as the Rams’ lead grew to 38-28.
It was Wendt’s turn in the fourth period.
With Bridgeport adding extra attention to Clardy, Wendt was left wide open on the perimeter.
He canned a short jumper and followed with a trey from the right perimeter that extended the Rams’ lead to 49-36.
Wendt helped to increase the lead to 55-38 after hitting another three, then canning three consecutive free throws after being fouled beyond the arc.
Clardy and Wendt each added another trey at the end of the game much to the delight of the loud MWHS crowd.
“We told our guys to push the ball in transition,” Pappas said. “We felt like if we could get them in transition we could some open looks at some threes.
“I had Dexter (Cross) playing point guard so we could have Biren and Nick on the wings, and they got hot in the third quarter.”
Pappas was beaming about his defense after the game.
“I thought (Friday night) we played the best defense by far as we have all year,” he said. “We played our half-court man the entire game, and we didn’t have to switch to a zone.
“We didn’t have to press, it was just bread-and-butter man-to-man defense. Everyone stayed with their guy. Bridgeport has three or four guys who shoot the three well, and we had to play that old, almost Little Dribblers man-to-man defense where you stay with your man with not a lot of help.
“We just asked everyone to stay with their guy and do their part and they did a good job.
“Biren and Nick shot the ball well, and we made our free throws.
“We also rebounded the ball exceptionally well against a very good Bridgeport team.”
BHS 13 10 8 11 – 42
MWHS 15 10 15 25 – 65
MWHS – Nick Wendt 17, Boroderick Johnson 6, Biren Clardy 22, Juvaree Sutton 12, Rascellis Williams 6, Dexter Cross 2.
Up next: The Rams will play at 8 p.m. Friday at home against Diamond Hill.