Mineral Wells Index
By TONY EIERDAM
With a new coach, new players and a new system, it may take a few games for the 2013-14 Mineral Wells Lady Rams basketball team to grow an identity.
Growing pains were evident Tuesday night in the Lady Rams’ opener at home against the Vernon Lady Lions as last-minute MWHS turnovers spelled doom for the Lady Rams in a 55-53 loss to the Lady Lions.
The Lady Rams will have a tournament this weekend to sort things out. MWHS will play at the Lady Spartan Classic at Burleson Centennial High School.
MWHS’ first game in the bracket-style tournament will be at 1:30 p.m. in the main arena against Waco Midway. Win or lose, the Lady Rams will play at 11 a.m. Friday. The rest of the game times will be depending on the outcome of Friday’s contest. The championship game is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday.
New Lady Rams head coach Leslie Holman, who has only had an entire squad to work with for less than a week due to volleyball playoffs, knows the team is a work in progress.
“There were some spurts where we had some good things going on, but we made too many mental errors and had too many turnovers,” she said. “We didn’t block out well ... just little things we have to work on that are fixable. We just have to work harder to fix them.”
A huge positive was the play of all-district, returning sophomore guard Natalie Ragland, who led the Lady Rams with 21 points, nine steals and six assists while also pulling down six rebounds.
Returning guard Courtney Peña also scored in double figures with 13 points.
Another bright spot was seeing the return of guard Megan Powell, who has not played basketball since the 2011-12 season due to an injury.
In a game that saw 11 tie scores and 10 lead changes, the game was tied at 50-50 with 1:55 left to play after a jumper from the lane by returning guard Pam Hopkins.
Vernon scored on its next possession and then forced an MWHS turnover. But a hustling Peña stole the ball from an unsuspecting Vernon ball handler and cruised down the right side for a layup that tied the game, 52-52, with a minute left to play.
Vernon hit a pair of free throws on its ensuing trip down the floor for a 54-52 advantage, and the game looked bleak for the Lady Rams following another turnover.
However, a huge defensive rebound from Tabby Santibanez gave the Lady Rams new hope. But that hope quickly disappeared with another turnover, after which MWHS was forced to foul.
Vernon missed the first charity shot but canned the next, however, the officials charged the Lady Lions with a lane violation which wiped out the free throw which kept it a one-basket game.
On the Lady Rams’ following possession, Peña was fouled and hit one of two free throws to cut the Vernon lead to 54-53 with 18 ticks left on the clock.
But a “mental mistake”cost the Lady Rams dearly as they did not foul the Lady Lions until there were three seconds left to play.
Vernon hit the first free throw and missed the next as the clock ran out on the Lady Rams.
“Our offense had been struggling (in scrimmage games) and I was pleasantly surprised we put up 53 points,” Holman said. “But offense is not what worries me.
“Our defense concerns me more, allowing 55 points.
“I really want to fix the defensive part before I start worrying about the offensive part.
“But the girls hustled the entire game, and there were times where we got after it and caused some turnovers. We have been working on things like that, trying to be more aggressive on defense to cause those turnovers.
“But we just didn’t capitalize on them (Tuesday night). We made some bad decisions that led to turnovers, and if we would have capitalized on some of those steals we had ... that’s at least six points, and that would have made a difference.”
Paced by eight points by Ragland, the Lady Rams led 15-12 after the first quarter.
But Vernon outscored the Lady Rams in the second and third periods to take a 43-41 lead into the fourth quarter.