MINERAL WELLS —
BY TONY EIERDAM
RIVER OAKS – With four newcomers to the starting lineup and a new head coach, the Mineral Wells Lady Rams made a statement in the District 6-3A opener here Friday night.
Paced by 27 points and 11 rebounds by senior newcomer Sydney Shelstead, and 24 points from Niya Benavides – the lone returning starter off of last year’s three-win (in district) team – the Lady Rams crushed Castleberry, 87-18, to not only win the district opener but send a message to the rest of 6-3A that this is not your last year’s Mineral Wells girls basketball team.
“It was a nice win in a district opener with me being a first-year coach in the district and the team with a bunch of players playing for the first time in this district,” Lady Rams head coach Ed Shelstead said. “Obviously, we wanted to start district off good and play strong.
“The best part about this game was there were kids who needed a lot of floor time and got it.
“Sydney and Niya had fun, and it was good to see them smiling out there. Frankly, we have been too uptight (before and at the beginning of games), and I have been talking a lot to them about having a good time on the court.
“This was a great district opener for that.”
It was a game that saw the Lady Rams (17-5, 1-0) bolt out to a 12-2 lead early in the contest and lead 46-11 at the half.
The MWHS ladies also put on a defensive show, allowing zero points in the third quarter. In fact, the Lady Rams’ defense was so smothering that it held the Lady Lions scoreless for a span of 11:50 from late in the second quarter until early in the fourth period.
Shelstead was also able to play his sophomore guards – Pamela Hopkins and Riley Bullock – for most of the second half.
Junior guard Courtney Peña also saw significant minutes and parlayed her playing time into an 11-point effort.
“Pamela works hard, and she was blocking out and getting rebounds,” Shelstead said. “It is fun for me as a coach when I see the kids do the little things that I ask them to do, and Pamela, Riley and Courtney did those things.
“This game had to have been fun for them, as well.”
Sydney Shelstead dominated early on, scoring the Lady Rams’ first 10 points of the game.
Benavides took over late in the opening period with five points, including a three-point bucket.
The quarter ended on a put back from Shelstead, who scored 14 points in the opening period as MWHS led 21-6.
Bullock fed Shelstead for a layup to begin the second quarter, and Benavides followed with a three and an eloquent “teardrop” layup that extended the Lady Rams’ lead to 31-6.
After Castleberry connected on consecutive baskets, including a three from Mercedes Concha, Benavides drained another three and scored on a three-point play after she made a layup, was fouled, and connected on the charity shot.
Another varsity newcomer, freshman point guard Natalie Ragland, closed the first-half scoring on a put back as the Lady Rams led 46-11 at the break. Ragland would finish with four points, four assists and eight rebounds.
The third quarter took on a look of the famous Bill Murray comedy movie, “Ground Hog Day.” On Castleberry’s first three possessions, the Lady Rams stole the ball, and with numbers on their side, would score on easy layups off length-of-the-court, fast-break passes.
Sydney Shelstead began the quick run by scoring a layup off a steal. After a Lady Lions’ turnover on Castleberry’s ensuing possession, Sydney Shelstead stole the ball and passed down court to sister Kennedy Shelstead for an easy layup.
Following a third Castleberry turnover, Bethany Allen, in her first year in the MWHS basketball program, fed Benavides for a layup that increased the MWHS advantage to 52-11.
It only got worse for the hosts. Ragland and Allen scored on layups in the same fashion as the first three of the quarter, with Sydney Shelstead earning both assists.
Bored by layups, Benavides, after a Castleberry turnover, pulled up and swished a three from the left baseline as MWHS led 60-11.After another Lady Lions’ turnover, Sydney Shelstead scored on a put back and Peña capped a Castleberry turnover with a baseline jumper.
Castleberry continued to have trouble in its offensive end, and Benavides made the hosts pay with another trey to increase the lead to 67-11.
Hopkins closed the scoring in the third period on a layup off a feed from Allen.
Peña got hot in the fourth quarter with nine points, including a three-pointer, as the Lady Rams cruised to a 69-point win.
MWHS 21 25 23 18 – 87
CHS 6 5 0 7 – 18
MWHS – Sydney Shelstead 27, Niya Benavides 24, Kennedy Shelstead 12, Courtney Peña 11, Natalie Ragland 4, Pam Hopkins 4, Riley Bullock 3, Bethany Allen 2.