By TONY EIERDAM
A little more than two weeks ago in a loss at Springtown, the Mineral Wells Lady Rams had problems handling the Lady Porcupines’ strong defense and physical play.
Friday night in the rematch of this District 6-3A rivalry at the MWHS gym, Springtown showed why it should be considered a team that could make a deep playoff run as it handled the Lady Rams, 54-42, to clinch the second seed in the league.
The loss drops the Lady Rams to 22-8 overall and 6-3 in district play.
In the first loss, MWHS leading scorer and rebounder, post Sydney Shelstead, got into early foul trouble and missed most of the third quarter and part of the fourth.
Although the 6-1 senior fouled out of the game late in the fourth period on Friday, when she was forced to sit Springtown did not really take off like it did in the last meeting.
What hurt the Lady Rams was an inability to balance its scoring.
Springtown led 25-18 at the half, and 16 of the Lady Rams’ 18 points came from Shelstead, who finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Springtown’s Brooklyn Dauenhauer led all scorers with 26 points.
“I think their defense rattled us,” Lady Rams head coach Ed Shelstead said. “We shot ourselves in the foot. (Senior wing) Niya (Benavides) did not have her stroke, but she still helped us with a lot of other things. She blocked out well.
“But we didn’t have any balance in scoring in the first half. My message to the team at the half was to take it one possession at a time, and we can’t have any more ‘freak out’ turnovers.
“But we had too many turnovers. We didn’t take care of the ball the way we should have.
“I thought we had some people on the perimeter who were real tentative in the first half, and I think they were looking for Sydney and Niya to do it all.
“We have a lot of inexperience out there – we started three girls who had not had any varsity experience until this year – and we just got a little tentative. We did not execute smoothly on offense at all, and you have to give Springtown credit, they play a style of basketball that hurts us. They are physical and strong.”
The Lady Rams began the scoring on a three-pointer by Sydney Shelstead, and she scored on consecutive layups off feeds by freshman point guard Natalie Ragland for a 9-7 lead. The game was tied, 9-9, after the first quarter, but all nine points were scored by Shelstead.
Shelstead scored the Lady Rams’ first four points of the second quarter, but that was offset by nine points by Dauenhauer – including a three – as Springtown led 20-12.
Springtown maintained an eight-point advantage, 22-14, after sophomore Kennedy Shelstead hit a pair of free throws.
But unfortunately for the Lady Rams, no one not named Shelstead scored in the half as the Lady Porcupines took a seven-point lead into the locker room at the break.
Benavides found her stroke in the third period, and her shooting kept the Lady Rams in the game.
Benavides canned a three-pointer from the right perimeter and followed with a layup off a pass form Sydney Shelstead, and Ragland canned one of two charity shots as MWHS cut the SHS lead to 33-26 with just under four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
However, Sydney Shelstead picked up her third foul with 3:43 left in the third. She remained in the game, but 22 seconds later picked up another foul – the call much to the dislike of the MWHS fans – and was forced to sit for the rest of the period.
With Sydney Shelstead on the bench, Springtown outscored the Lady Rams 7-4 to take a 41-32 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Porcupines increased their lead to 48-34, but with Sydney Shelstead back in the contest MWHS made one last quick run.
Kennedy Shelstead nailed a pair from the charity stripe, and Sydney Shelstead scored on a driving layup.
Benavides then drew a foul and hit both free throws to cut the visitors’ lead to 48-40 with 3:45 left to play.
However, MWHS did not hit another shot from the field for the remainder of the game as Springtown hung on for a 12-point win to clinch second place.
Ed Shelstead said having his senior post out of the game limited offensive options.
“I thought we looked fresh throughout the game, we didn’t look tired,” he said “I definitely ran a short bench (Friday), and what it does when Sydney gets in foul trouble is it limits our options.
“Sydney is our horse, and when she is not in there we have to do things we are necessarily used to.
“However, Springtown did not make a huge run when Sydney was out, and we missed a layup that would have cut the lead (in the third quarter) to five.
“Springtown went on another run (in the fourth quarter) and we just ran out of time.
“But all is not lost. We will advance to the playoffs as the third seed and start over again.”
SHS 9 16 16 13 – 54
MWHS 9 9 14 10 – 42
MWHS – Sydney Shelstead 22, Niya Benavides 9, Kennedy Shelstead 6, Bethany Allen 2, Courtney Peña 2, Natalie Ragland 1.