MINERAL WELLS —
By TONY EIERDAM
District 6-3A schools must have been shaking their heads this past weekend when they read the scores from the girls’ opening night of basketball on Friday and saw the Mineral Wells Lady Rams had scored 87 points on a Castleberry team that defeated MWHS late in the league season last year.
The Lady Rams will continue district play at 6:30 p.m. today at home against Lake Worth.
With the Lady Rams carrying four new starters – all new to the program – the Lady Lions did a collective double take when the MWHS ladies walked on the floor for warmups Friday in River Oaks.
The Lady Lions got to know the new faces well as Sydney Shelstead, Kennedy Shelstead, Bethany Allen and Natalie Ragland combined for 45 of the 87 points.
Last year’s returning starter, Niya Benavides, scored 24 points, and a varsity member from last season, Courtney Peña, added 11 points as both Benavides and Peña were smiling after the contest as they recalled Castleberry’s last-second basket in 2012 that eliminated the Lady Rams from any possibility of earning a playoff spot.
But on Friday, the Lady Rams showed that the 2013 District 6-3A season would be a 180-degree turnaround from last year.
Last year, district teams doubled and triple-teamed Benavides, the team’s lone scoring threat.
On Friday, when Castleberry focused on Benavides it left Sydney Shelstead with one-on-one coverage underneath, and Shelstead dominated that matchup and scored a game-high 27 points while also collecting 11 rebounds.
When Castleberry scrambled and doubled on Sydney Shelstead, Benavides was left open open the perimeter. Benavides drained five three-pointers to frustrate the hosts.
The Lady Rams have used this one-two punch to forge a 17-5 overall record.
“Sydney and Niya had fun (Friday night),” new Lady Rams head coach Ed Shelstead said. “It was a nice win for a district opener for me as a first-year head coach in the district and for our team, that missed the playoffs last year.”
Shelstead also got to play many players – ladies who have embraced their respective roles and who have also played key roles in the 17 wins.
“Everyone got to play a lot of minutes, and that was the best thing about the win,” Shelstead said. “The kids are also doing all of the little things I ask, and as a coach that is fun for me.”
The Lady Rams are tied for first place with Kennedale and today’s opponent, Lake Worth. With Kennedale ranked No. 2 in Class 3A and the Ladycats facing Fort Worth Diamond Hill, it is likely 6-3A will have two teams tied for first place after today’s action.
Lake Worth is coming off a 37-22 win over Diamond Hill and is also looking to stay unbeaten in district play. In other district action on Friday, Kennedale defeated Springtown, 86-16.
“We wanted to start district off strong and we feel we did that,” Ed Shelstead said.
Now the Lady Rams will have a different challenge in not only Lake Worth and Diamond Hill – their next two opponents – but also the challenge of not looking ahead to a Jan. 15 game at Springtown followed by a Jan. 18 home game against Kennedale.