By TONY EIERDAM
Playing in business-like fashion, the Mineral Wells Rams dispatch an undermanned Graham squad, 59-43, Friday afternoon in a non-district basketball game at the MWHS gym.
The game was originally scheduled to be played in Graham, but when Graham’s football team set up a playoff game with Lake Worth at Ram Stadium on the same night, the Steers’ basketball coaches asked Rams head coach Aaron Pappas if they could instead play in Graham prior to the football game.
And it was the football game that depleted Graham’s basketball roster. All five projected Graham starters are still playing football.
“I don’t know if we played that well, and a couple of our starters had off nights,” Pappas said. “But we had some guys come off the bench who did play well.”
A starter who did turn in a strong performance was senior forward A.J. Williams, who grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds to go along with three points. Junior guard DaShawn Hicks led the Rams with 13 points.
“A.J. always plays hard,” Pappas said. “He is going to be the heart and soul of our team, and when you watch him play you can see why.”
Pappas said he and the team took the win with a grain of salt.
“Graham is missing all of its starters due to football, and we knew they would not be that strong offensively,” he said. “That’s why we jumped in a press to begin the game.
“We knew Graham had brought up some freshmen and sophomores to varsity. We wanted to press early and try to get turnovers. We did a pretty good job of it, although at times we did give them some easy baskets.
“But all in all, I was proud of our defensive effort.”
Williams began the game in aggressive fashion, driving to the lane and scoring while being fouled. The senior nailed the free throw to complete the three-point play.
The Rams extended their lead to 9-3 on a jumper near the free-throw line by varsity newcomer, sophomore Biren Clardy, who finished with 12 points.
MWHS closed out the first-period scoring on a baseline jumper from matt “Moose” Tincher and a put back from Hicks as the Rams led 14-8.
Hicks caught fire in the second quarter. He began the period by swishing a pair of charity shots, and later scored on a nifty reverse layup.
Hicks added a pair of free throws later in the quarter to increase the MWHS advantage to 26-12.
The Rams closed the scoring in the first half when Clardy calmly drained a three-pointer from the top of the key as the Rams led 30-16 at the break.
Graham got as close as 12 points with two minutes left in the third quarter. But the Rams shut out the Steers the rest of the period and added a trey from the top of the key by Tincher and finished the period on a jumper from the lane by senior guard Rylie Hill to take a 43-26 lead into the fourth quarter.
Another newcomer to varsity, sophomore Juvaree Sutton, had a layup and a put back to put the game out of reach as MWHS extended its lead to 59-34.
Graham scored nine unanswered points to close the contest.
GHS 8 8 10 17 – 43
MWHS 14 16 13 16 – 59
MWHS – Dashawn Hicks 13, Biren Clardy 12, Matt Tincher 11, Ricky Scott 11, Juvaree Sutton 4, A.J. Williams 3, Cris Valdez 2, Rylie Hill 2, Jacoby Prestwood 1.
Rams JV 46, Graham 34
A split MWHS junior varsity squad defeated Graham, 46-34.
The “other” Rams JV squad defeated Graford JV earlier in the day at the Graford Tournament.
Against Graham, Maceo Williams scored a game-high 20 points, with Tanner Newsome adding 11.
Also scoring for the Rams were Brandon Hamilton with six points, Justin Henderickson with five and Conner Bradshaw with four.
Also, Dexter Cross led the Rams in assists.