BY TONY EIERDAM
Seven Mineral Wells Lady Rams basketball players earned All-District 6-3A basketball honors in a vote of league coaches.
Senior post Sydney Shelstead was selected as Co-Most Valuable Player along with Autummn Williams of Kennedale, and sophomore wing Kennedy Shelstead was voted Newcomer of the Year.
Joining the Shelsteads on the all-district, first team are senior guard Niya Benavides and freshman point guard Natalie Ragland.
Earning second-team honors from MWHS are junior guards Bethany Allen and Courtney Peña, while sophomore guard Pamela Hopkins earned an honorable mention.
Sydney Shelstead averaged 22 points per game in district while also pulling down 13 rebounds per league contest.
“A lot of players can average high double-digit points, and another player may average double digit rebounds but not double digit points,” Lady Rams head coach Ed Shelstead said. “But to average 22 points and 13 boards per game is impressive.
“What was also impressive is the games she had against (district champion and state finalist) Kennedale where she had 18 rebounds in each game and 18 points in one of the games.
“The coaches recognized she played huge games in the two toughest games of the year for us.
“That had a big impact. But Sydney also racked up plenty of blocks, assists and steals. She was a true force, and she was unique in the fact that there weren’t too many players in the district who can do all of the things she does.
“She also played multiple positions, which was extremely valuable. For us, and the coaches recognized this.”
Kennedy Shelstead was a “shut down” defender, but she also averaged 10.5 points per game in 6-3A.
“Kennedy’s best years are clearly ahead of her,” Ed Shelstead said. “Her length on defense really helped us out, and she is a fighter who also had some big scoring games.
“I think the coaches recognized the fight in her, and this award reflects on ho hard she works.
“What was amazing about her scoring was that she averaged a little more than 10 a game and I never ran anything for her. All of our sets were designed for Sydney or Niya (Benavides) – to a fault as I look back at the season – and Kennedy scored most of her points in transition.
“I am looking forward to next year in that regard to see who she can become.”
Ragland handled the point guard spot for the Lady Rams like a veteran, while Benavides averaged 15 points per game in district play.
“Natalie didn’t seem like a freshman,” Ed Shelstead said. “Her mentality was mature beyond her years, and she was so calm.
“There were many times where she was the leader on the floor, and I was very impressed with her.
“I think she has a really bright future ahead of her, and part of my reasoning is that she is a very hard worker who will continue to work hard.
“To have the combination of maturity and calmness from her makes me fell good we will have her for three more years.
“I can’t say enough about Natalie and how important she is to our team.
“Niya,” Shelstead continued, “is an amazing shooter with great range. Niya helped Sydney out a great deal, and I think you have to give credit to Niya for Sydney’s big numbers.
“Niya stretched the defense because of her shooting ability, and that allowed Sydney to roam and operate.
“Niya was a huge part of everything we did. In addition to her offense, she rebounded well for us, and she was very physical as a post defender when she needed to be. I am very proud to have been given the chance to work with Niya. She is an amazing person and a great shooter.”
Allen and Peña were both “shut down” defenders, and at the end of district play Allen showed an ability to score as well.
“Bethany really worked hard, and it is impressive that she earned a spot on the second team in her first year of high school basketball,” Ed Shelstead said. “BB (Allen) would wear out our opponents’ guards, and she also showed some spark on offense when we needed a spark.
“She is a hard worker and a fierce competitor, and above that she is a great kid.
“Courtney was very similar to Bethany. Courtney had a difficult role coming off the bench for us, and she was a spark for us in many games.
“Courtney really got after it, especially on defense, and unfortunately at the end of the season had an ankle injury that she was dealing with and that cut into her playing time.
“But in several games Courtney was a spark for us.”
Hopkins showed an ability to score despite limited playing time.
“Pam had 20 points in one district game and almost 20 in another,” Ed Shelstead said. “ I learned that she can score, and she is another one who got her points in transition or other places and not set plays.
“She is a hard worker who had a difficult role. She didn’t get many minutes and had to come off the bench and produce, and it is awesome the coaches recognized what she could do.
“I really look forward to working with Pam in the future.”
BY TONY EIERDAM
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