Mineral Wells Index
By TONY EIERDAM
After 31 games, which included 10 District 6-3A contests and three tournaments, the Mineral Wells Lady Rams enter the “second season” of the high school basketball schedule.
The Lady Rams finished in third place in 6-3A and will assume the league’s third seed in the Class 3A, Region I playoffs and will face the Vernon Lady Lions, the second-place team from District 5-3A, at 6:30 p.m. today at the Olney High School gym.
The Lady Rams will bring a solid 22-9 record into the playoffs despite playing with four new starters and three ladies who had never played at the varsity level.
The Lady Lions bring a 10-14 record into the game, but despite a losing record the Lady Lions split with district-champion Wichita Falls Hirschi.
“Vernon is clearly scrappy and competitive,” Lady Rams head coach Ed Shelstead said. “We will have to shoot well and defend well to win.
“I feel the game will be decided from the boards and field goal percentage.”
The Lady Rams will look to their leading scorer and rebounder, 6-1 senior Sydney Shelstead, and leading outside shooter, senior wing Niya Benavides, for scoring and inside stability.
In 10 district games, Shelstead averaged a double double with 22 points and 14 rebounds per game. She also averaged three steals and two blocked shots.
Benavides, who makes her living beyond the three-point arc, averaged 15 points and almost five boards per game in league play.
But the Lady Rams have also discovered another offensive threat during the 10-game district slate. Sophomore Kennedy Shelstead – one of the four newcomers and one of three Lady Rams playing varsity for the first time this season – led the Lady Rams in scoring in two district contests while averaging 10.5 points and three rebounds per league game. She also recorded an average of two assists and a pair of steals each contest.
The Lady Rams will also have to rely on their defensive specialists – junior guards Bethany Allen and Courtney Peña – to stop a potent Vernon offense. Allen is the second of the three newcomers to varsity and is playing in her first year of high school basketball.
Peña is the first lady off the bench and is frequently assigned to guard the opponent’s best perimeter player.
And after 31 games, starting point guard Natalie Ragland, a freshman, has gained valuable experience running the Lady Rams’ offense. Ragland, who averages 4.5 points, five rebounds and three assists per game may be the key to the offensive success of the team.
“We have to raise our level of intensity and make sure we involve all players in the offense and not be so reliant on Sydney and Niya,” Ed Shelstead said. “We have to spread the shots around and execute against a zone.”
The winner of the contest will advance to the area round and will face Liberty Hill, the District 8-3A champion.