By TONY EIERDAM
WEATHERFORD – Although the Mineral Wells Lady Rams hung tooth-and-nail with state-ranked No. 6 Kennedale for much of the game, the talented Lady Kats showed why they are ranked high in the state rankings as they came away with a 74-57 victory here Tuesday night in a Class 3A, Region I quarterfinal game.
The Lady Rams end the season with an overall mark of 24-10 in one of the biggest turnarounds in the state in 3A girls basketball. Kennedale advances to the regional semifinals where they will face No. 3 Lubbock Cooper.
The game also marked the final high school basketball contests for Lady Rams seniors Niya Benavides and Sydney Shelstead.
“Wow, what a great season,” Lady Rams head coach Ed Shelstead, in his first year as a head coach, said. “We accomplished a lot in one year with three starters who did not play at the varsity level prior to this year.
“Three rounds in the playoffs is something to be proud of, I don’t care who you are.”
In the past two losses to Kennedale, Sydney Shelstead got into foul trouble and had to miss playing action. Although she got four fouls charged to her Tuesday, she remained in the game.
The Lady Kats had trouble with the 6-1 post as Shelstead scored a game-high 28 points and pulled down 17 rebounds.
But the Lady Kats responded as guard McKinley Bostad scored 17 points, post Autumn Williams added 16 and forward Travanti Downes finished with 15 as Kennedale spread its scoring.
Defensively, Kennedale held the Lady Rams in check and put on the clamps in the fourth quarter, allowing 13 points.
“Kennedale forces you to do things that are uncomfortable and they were affective tonight,” Ed Shelstead said. “They are a solid, athletic team, and even though they have no answer for Sydney their perimeter players are very solid.
“I believe they have three legitimate Division I athletes, and they stepped up tonight.”
Sydney Shelstead made an impact from the beginning, scoring on a three-point play when she converted a layup, was fouled, and followed with the charity shot. She added another free throw seconds later to give the Lady Rams a 6-4 lead.
Kennedale stretched its lead to seven points before junior guard Bethany Allen scored on a put back and a short jumper to cut the Lady Kats’ lead to 14-11 as the contest moved to the second period.
However, Kennedale kicked its high-octane offense in gear in the second quarter. Bostad went off and hit two early three-pointers before knocking down a pair at the line to increase her team’s lead to 23-14.
At this point in the game, the Lady Rams struggled to keep the margin at 10 points. MWHS cut the lead to 10 when Allen nailed a jumper, and again when Benavides hit a nifty turn-around jumper.
But Kennedale guard Jasmyn Poe sank a trey near the end of the half as Kennedale took a 35-23 lead at the break.
Kennedale looked like it would run away with game after Bostad scored four straight points to give the Lady Kats a 54-37 lead.
But the Lady Rams were not ready to give up. Sydney Shelstead connected on a pair from the line, and Natalie Ragland followed with a jumper from the left side.
The Lady Rams showed they were going to stick around when Benavides hit a critical three-pointer from the right perimeter to close the third-period scoring as MWHS cut the lead to 54-44.
Seeing her team’s lead slipping away, Downes came up big for Kennedale. The senior scored three consecutive buckets to extend the Lady Kats’ lead to 60-44 as Kennedale never looked back.
Sydney Shelstead, playing with four fouls, brought the Lady Rams back to within 11 after hitting a three and canning a pair of free throws, but Williams answered with a pair of charity shots and Downes hit another jumper to seal the win.
KHS 14 21 19 20 – 74
MWHS 11 12 21 13 – 57
MWHS – Sydney Shelstead 28, Bethany Allen 14, Kennedy Shelstead 6, Niya Benavides 5, Natalie Ragland 4.