By TONY EIERDAM
After a slow start and falling behind by 29 points in a district game in the first half of league play but coming back to win, the Mineral Wells Rams in their following five district games have focused on and executed good starts.
Even in a blowout loss to state-ranked No. 2 Kennedale (ranked No. 1 in some polls) the Rams led 19-17 at the end of the first quarter.
And Friday night against Castleberry at the MWHS gym the Rams once again jumped out to an early advantage with 31 points in the opening period and appeared on their way to a sixth district win.
But a team that understands now how to start fast has appeared to have forgotten how to finish.
Plagued by fourth-quarter turnovers and missed free throws that sent the game into overtime, and in an overtime period that saw the Rams go 1-for-5 at the free throw line, the Rams still found themselves with the ball and a one-point lead with 33 seconds left in the extra session.
But three consecutive turnovers, including two miscues after Castleberry forward Daniel Gandy nailed a three at the top of the key to give the Lions a two-point lead, led to a 77-75 loss to Castleberry that keeps the Rams in third place – a game behind second-place Springtown and a game ahead of fourth-place Castleberry – with one game remaining on the 6-3A slate.
The Rams will close the district season on Tuesday at Lake Worth, while Castleberry will host Springtown.
“Free throws and turnovers down the stretch killed us,”Rams head coach Aaron Pappas said. “That was the ball game.
“Castleberry played great and my hat is off to them once again. They gave us a game on our home court and now we are probably looking like we will finish in third place assuming we can beat Lake Worth on Tuesday.