By GREG WEBB
Despite a 22-point performance from Mineral Wells’ DeShawn Hicks on Friday, the Rams failed to keep pace with a 23-11 second-quarter advantage for Springtown’s Porcupines. Pojo put together an offensive barrage with three of its players in double figures to win a seed match at Weatherford High School, 70-53.
“Mineral Wells has a good team,” said Springtown head coach James Rike. “We knew coming in we needed to stop [Hicks] and Ricky Scott. They are both good scorers.”
While Hicks got his points as the game’s high scorer, the Pojo defense was able to neutralize the Rams most prolific inside threat, as they held Scott to seven.
Though the Rams and Porcupines had met three times previous in the season (with Mineral Wells winning two), the contest represented the rubber match for games split in District 6-3A play, as the teams battled to determine the two and three slots in the state playoff brackets.
The game illustrated the intense, and growing, rivalry between the schools less than a minute in, with the respective ‘bigs’ getting nose-to-nose after scrambling for a loose ball. Officials quickly quelled the potential confrontation, though both would be called for simultaneous technical fouls in the final period.
Mineral Wells took the early advantage, scoring the first seven points of the game before Springtown could get on track. Aggressive defensive play by the Rams and a cold start from Pojo created the game-opening margin, but fortunes would turn by the second quarter.
“It was important for us to be successful with perimeter shots early in the game,” Rike said. “We were a little flat at the beginning of the game, but then hit some shots, got hot and really began to roll.”
Down by two entering the second quarter, Springtown heated up, with five different players finding the mark with consistency, while the Rams depended mainly on Hicks. The scoring distribution turned decidedly in the Porcupines favor, as they led by 10 going to the break.
Mineral Wells would close the margins temporarily in the second half, thanks to several steals caused by an incessant full-court press, but Pojo found plenty of layups in transition to hold off the Rams.
Biren Clardy added 12 points for the Rams, while Scott chipped in seven.
Top producers for Springtown were Caleb Brown (18), Dalton Scott (14) and Dylan Ray (11). Springtown ultimately controlled the boards and the lanes much of the night, relegating Mineral Wells to perimeter shooting, which ebbed and flowed.
Rike was happy to see the defense so effective, especially controlling the boards, a key point he attributes to Pojo’s success on the season.
“All year long, our guys have really bought in to our defensive scheme,” he said. “Our goal is to hold teams to 52 points or less, and in the games we are able to do that, we’re winning 85 percent of those.
“And we have been spending a lot of practice time shooting the ball. I really think our offense is beginning to gel — in district play we have five players average [more than nine points a game].”
With the third-place seed, Mineral Wells will meet Burkburnett in the Class 3A, Region I bi-district round at a site and time to be determined. Springtown, wrapping up the second seed will meet Graham. The Porcupines bested the Steers in a non-district game last December, 54-39.