By TONY EIERDAM
RIVER OAKS – In the past four District 6-3A meetings spanning two years, the Castleberry Lions have had no answer for Mineral Wells Rams post Ricky Scott.
Scott scored a game-high 23 points and pulled down eight rebounds to lead the Rams to a 77-65 victory here Friday night over the Lions as MWHS clinched a playoff spot.
Coupled with Springtown’s loss to Kennedale, the Rams and Porcupines are tied for second place with identical 6-3 marks. Both teams are expected to win Tuesday in their respective district finales, and a tiebreaker game or coin flip will determine the second and third seeds in the district.
Rams head coach Aaron Pappas, who has now guided the Rams to consecutive playoff berth in his two years as head coach, said the goal of reaching postseason play has been accomplished, but that he would like to see the team finish in second rather than third place.
The third-place team in the district will face Burkburnett in the opening round. Burkburnett defeated the Rams earlier in the year, 85-54.
“It feels good to clinch a playoff spot,” he said. “But we still have one more game (Lake Worth) that we have to win to put us in the position we want to be in, so we can’t celebrate just yet.
“I think this is the fourth year in a row we have made the playoffs, so we have a little tradition going.”
Castleberry showed it was much improved from the last meeting, a 79-53 MWHS win.
“Castleberry hit some shots and we didn’t play very well defensively in the first half,” Pappas said. “Offensively, their zone gave us some trouble. Castleberry played a lot better than they did at our place.
“I thought we took too many threes in the first half, so at halftime I told them to pound the ball inside and to be more physical.
“We did a better job of getting the ball inside to our big guys in the second half.”
After a first quarter that saw the Rams ahead by just two points, the MWHS inside players went to work early in the second period.
Senior post A.J. Williams scored on a put back and turnaround jumper, and Scott followed by stunning the Lions with a pair of three-point buckets as MWHS extended its lead to 28-16.
The Rams’ lead grew to 13 points when sophomore point guard Biren Clardy hit a pair of free throws. Clardy finished with 18 points.
Castleberry wing Jose Castaneda buried a jumper to end the first half as the rams took a 35-24 lead into the locker room at the half.
Four field goals by Clardy in the third quarter helped the Rams increase their lead to 50-37 as the game moved to the fourth period.
As instructed by their coach, the Rams’ posts helped put the game away early in the fourth quarter.
Scott began the scoring on a layup where he was fouled, and he canned the charity shot to complete the three-point play.
Williams muscled his way underneath with a strong offensive rebound that led to a put back, and after a Lions’ bucket, guard Nick Wendt assisted on a Scott layup down the right side as the MWHS lead grew to 59-42.
Scrappy Castleberry managed to cut the lead to 11 points with under two minutes left to play, but Scott squashed Lions’ comeback hopes when he scored on consecutive put backs for a 72-57 cushion.
The Rams connected on five of six free throws down the stretch to come away with a 12-point win which put the team in the playoffs.
In sub-varsity action, the Rams junior varsity defeated the Lions, 56-41, and the MWHS boys’ freshman team took a 54-49 victory.
MWHS 18 17 15 27 – 77
CHS 16 8 13 28 – 65
MWHS – Ricky Scott 23, Biren Clardy 18, DaShawn Hicks 16, A.J. Williams 7, Ty Ashley 7, Nick Wendt 5, Rascellis Williams 1.