By CLINT FOSTER
It was almost everything you could hope for from a basketball game.
In their first-round playoff game, Tuesday night in Bridgeport, against the favored, 21st-ranked Wichita Falls Hirschi Huskies, the Mineral Wells Rams (15-12) fell one point short of a thrilling upset, losing 63-62 despite storming back from a 10-point deficit.
But, after further review, there may have been more to this “loss” than meets the eye.
In fact, many of the Rams faithful have said, had it not been for a crucial scoring mistake, Mineral Wells should not have lost the game at all.
Mineral Wells head basketball coach Aaron Pappas told the Index after reviewing the game film with his assistant coaches “three or four times,” it became clear to them that Hirschi was credited with two points late in the second quarter that were never scored.
“We watched it extensively,” Pappas said of the game tape. “We charted every shot made on film. Apparently, they had 33 points at half instead of 35 (which is what the scoreboard read).
“That makes a big difference in the outcome of the game. The official scorebook had it ‘63-62, Hirschi.’ There’s nothing that can be done about it and I don’t want to take anything away from Hirschi, because they played a great game.
“But if everything was like it was supposed to be, we win the game, 62-61.”
Play-by-play voice of the Rams Tony Eierdam of QXFM radio, 88.5 FM, described the scene during the second quarter in Bridgeport that night that led to so much confusion.
“Broderick Johnson had just scored to make it 20-19, Rams, but the scorebook official put two points up for Hirschi,” Eierdam said. “That’s when I told the listeners, at the time, that the scoreboard was wrong and I’d have to look and see if they fixed it.
“I looked down to the scoring table and saw (assistant coach) Neil Mesler – who was doing the book for the Rams on the Rams’ bench.
“The scoreboard guy reacted and gave Hirschi two more points before realizing he hadn’t given the Rams their points.
“Then he put two points up for the Rams to give the Rams a correct score and took two more points off of Hirschi’s score, when he should have taken four off."
The result of the dispute, according to eyewitnesses, was a 21-20 score in favor of Hirschi instead of a 20-19 score in favor of Mineral Wells, as indicated by the film.
Both Eierdam’s scorecard and the coaches’ testimony supported the latter score.
Mineral Wells coaches said the two points were credited to Hirschi’s Deonte Canada, who, according to the film, did not score in the second quarter, Tuesday night.
Trusting his assistant coach, Pappas said he did not question the result during the game, focusing instead on coaching his players during the stoppage. In hindsight, he said wished he would have done something.
“Being the head coach, I probably should have called a timeout there,” he said. “I hate to waste a timeout in that situation, but I saw Neil going to the table and he came back by and said, ‘They gave us our two points.’
“(Bridgeport’s) Athletic Director (Danny Henson) said, ‘Everything’s correct,’ so we just played on. When the game was over, the officials left the floor and I went to the locker room.”
Pappas said it was not until long after the game when he reviewed the film with his staff that he realized what had happened.
He said he made multiple calls to the University Interscholastic League in an attempt to appeal the score, but he said UIL officials told him there is no way to contest a score after the game has finished.
The Index received a similar answer from UIL Media Coordinator Kate Hector.
“The rules state that once the contest is over, there is no way to go back and change the outcome,” she said. “If there is any sort of discrepancy in the scoring, it needs to be corrected during the game. Within the rules, there is nothing we can do to change the outcome at this point.”
The Index attempted to contact Henson for a statement in defense of his staff, but the call was not returned. UIL rules state that during neutral site games, the host school is responsible for staffing official scorers and other game day personnel.
“(Scoring personnel) knew they were making a mistake and it appeared that they tried to cover for it instead of stopping the game to correct the error, which is protocol,” Eierdam said of the scoring crew. “It’s one thing to make a mistake, it’s another thing to appear not to do anything about it.”
It is an oft-overused cliche in athletics that “the film doesn’t lie.” However, regardless of what the film says in this instance, the Mineral Wells Rams will have to settle with a 63-62 playoff loss to end their season in the Class 3A, Region I bi-district playoffs – even if that end may have been premature.
The good news for the Rams is, next year, they return all of their starters from the Hirschi game – including four juniors – and a supporting cast brimming with talent and potential. There may be no better motivation than feeling cheated – whether that feeling is merited or not.
It would be hard to imagine these same Mineral Wells Rams not taking on the 2014-15 season with a renewed focus and determination to avenge this early playoff exit and possibly push deeper into the postseason than they have in many years.