By TONY EIERDAM
GRAHAM – In a game that saw the Mineral Wells Lady Rams jumped out to a big lead only to lose their advantage, it took three veteran MWHS players to get the team on track for the win.
Paced by huge free throws from lettermen Ashlynn Robinson and Natalie Ragland and a big jumper from second-year varsity member Pam Hopkins in overtime, the Lady Rams got past the Graham Lady Blues, 55-52, here Tuesday night in a non-district tilt.
The win raises the Lady Rams’ mark to 3-9.
“It was a good win for us,” Lady Rams head coach Leslie Holman said. “But I was disappointed that we had to go to overtime in the first place after we had a three-point lead.”
Trailing 47-44, Graham hit a baseline three-point bucket as time expired in regulation to force overtime.
“But then,” Holman continued, “to come back and win it in overtime was big for us.
“Hopefully, we can take this and progress more.”
With the score tied at 47-47, Ragland hit one of two free throws and Tabby Santibanez scored on a driving layup from the left side to give the Lady Rams a quick 50-47 lead in the extra session.
But Graham countered with a charity shot and a layup to tie the score, 50-50.
The Lady Rams missed a shot on their ensuing possession, but senior Ashlynn Robinson – a three-year varsity member who has not seen much playing time due to injury the past two years, came up with a big offensive rebound and was fouled with 1:02 left in overtime.
Robinson, who would finish with eight points and a team-leading seven rebounds (including four offensive boards), nailed both charity shots to give the Lady Rams a 52-50 lead.
Graham came back with a pair from the free throw line to tie the game with 47 ticks left on the clock before Hopkins drove the lane, pulled up and canned a crucial 12-foot jumper to give MWHS a 54-52 lead with 27 seconds left in OT.
When Graham came down the floor in an attempt to tie the game, Ragland came up with a huge steal and was fouled.
The sophomore, who would finish with a game-high 18 points, hit one of two charity shots to give the Lady Rams a 55-52 lead with 14 seconds remaining.
Needing a three-point bucket or a three-point play to tie the score, Graham decided to drive the lane in hopes of a bucket and a foul. But the Lady Blues missed the layup as the buzzer sounded giving the Lady Rams the hard-earned victory.
Holman said she wanted to get the ball in the hands of her two second-year varsity guards at the end.
“I told Pam if she got the ball to start taking it to the hole,” Holman explained.”I was thinking if she didn’t get the layup she would probably pick up a foul to put us on the free throw line.
“Natalie has been my go-to girl,”Holman continued. “She was our leading scorer (on Tuesday), and I have to have her on the court most of the time.”
The Lady Rams jumped out to a 7-0 lead to begin the game courtesy of a free throw by Santibanez, a put back from Robinson, a layup by Ashley Valdez and a layup by Ragland off a feed from Valdez.
Ragland closed the first-period scoring for MWHS with a pair of charity shots and a driving layup down the middle of the lane as the Lady Rams led by six points after the opening period.
Graham closed the gap to one point in the second quarter with 14 points. Valdez, Ragland and Robinson each scored three points in the period as MWHS led 20-19 at the half.
The teams seemed to trade baskets in a third quarter that saw the scored tied five times and with four lead changes.
After Graham took a brief 26-25 lead, Hopkins drained a trey from the top of the key to give MWHS a 28-26 advantage.
When Graham tied the score seconds later, Ragland found an opening down the middle of the lane and scored on a layup for a 30-28 cushion.
When Graham once again tied the score, Hopkins, on directions from her coach, drove the lane from the left side and found the bottom of the net with a layup for a 32-30 lead.
Graham hit a jumper to close the third-period scoring on the fourth lead change of the quarter as the Lady Blues took a 34-33 lead into the fourth period.
Graham held a slim three-point lead before Hopkins went back to work.
She hit one of to free throws, and after a Robinson grabbed a rebound on a GHS missed jumper, Hopkins canned a short shot from the right side to tie the game, 40-40, with 2:33 left in regulation.
The Lady Rams increased their lead to 43-40 with 1:28 left in the fourth quarter when Hopkins turned playmaker and rifled a pass to Robinson for a layup.
But Graham came back with a layup, and after a Lady Rams’ turnover, the Lady Blues took a 44-43 lead with another layup with 35 ticks left on the clock.
Needing a big bucket, Ragland took matters into her own hands and scored on a driving layup down the left side as MWHS led 45-44 with 18 seconds remaining in regulation.
Ragland then came up with a big steal and was fouled. She hit one of two free throws to give the Lady Rams a 47-44 lead with 10 seconds remaining.
That setup Graham’s big three-pointer that sent the contest to overtime.