By TONY EIERDAM
MILLSAP – For Mineral Wells head girls basketball coach Ed Shelstead at this time of the season it is all about his personnel learning what he is trying to implement.
For Millsap head girls basketball coach Jackie Jenkins it is about molding a young and inexperienced team in non-district play before league play begins.
The two teams faced off here Tuesday night, and the more experienced Lady Rams shrugged off the Lady Bulldogs’ efforts with a 58-41 win.
The Lady Bulldogs (2-4) could not stop Lady Rams senior post Sydney Shelstead, who scored a game-high 23 points and pulled down 13 rebounds.
Jolee Carswell led Millsap with 13 points.
The Lady Rams (3-3) began the game with a full-court press and as a result led 18-7 after the opening period. But when Shelstead got into foul trouble, the Lady Bulldogs went on a late second-quarter run to cut the Lady Rams’ lead to five points at the half.
“I thought our pressure defense worked out really well in the beginning,” Shelstead said. “But we had to make some substitutions, and we had some breakdowns on block outs.
“The last four minutes of the second quarter was why the game got close. They had about five or six offensive boards for six or eight points.”
Sydney Shelstead was a force in the first quarter, scoring 10 points. Her put back with about three minutes left in the half increased the MWHS advantage to 27-15.
But Millsap, courtesy of a pair of layups from Mikelyn Kruger, closed the first half with a 9-2 run and cut the Lady Rams’ lead to 29-24.
The Lady Bulldogs cut the lead to 29-26 when Carswell drained a jumper from the lane.
Millsap got a break when Shelstead was whistled for her third foul with 6:27 left in the third quarter.
But the Lady Rams’ guards came through and sparked an 11-0 run as senior Niya Benavides canned a three-pointer and a jumper, Sydney and Kennedy Shelstead each scored on layups and Ragland dished a perfect feed to Sydney Shelstead for another layup as MWHS built a 40-26 cushion.
“I think that is the best (guards) Kennedy (Shelstead), Natalie (Ragland), Courtney (Peña) and BB (Bethany Allen) have played all year,” Ed Shelstead said.
Millsap cut the lead to 12 points on a pair of free throws by Carswell, but Benavides closed the third-period scoring by hitting a nothing-but-net three-pointer to give MWHS a 45-30 lead as the game moved to the fourth quarter.
A trey and put back by Peña should have put the game out of reach as the Lady Rams built a 50-31 lead.
But Millsap refused to give in and came back with a 7-0 run – courtesy of a jumper each from Melissa Jones and Carswell and a free throw each by Jones, Sydney Herbel and Hannah Hobson – to cut the lead to 50-38.
MWHS closed the scoring on an 8-3 run to take a 17-point win.
“At times we had good effort, but at other times I thought we let up and let them go on runs, which cost us,” Jenkins said. “The girls were playing all out and going hard.
“They were blocking out and getting rebounds, and I think we may have stopped doing that later in the game.
“When you have a lot of turnovers and miss a lot of free throws it is hard to beat anybody, especially a good team like Mineral Wells.”
Ed Shelstead also saw improvement in his squad.
“We continue to improve, and when Sydney gets smarter and is not getting those fouls we will be in a good place,” he said. “I do feel we’re getting better every game, and I am pretty pleased.”
Jenkins feels the contest showed her a lot about her team.
“We are so young, but I think we are doing OK,” Jenkins said. “I have only got seven kids – two of them are freshmen – so we will hang in there and keep working.
“We have a lot of things to iron out before we start district. I have great kids who are coachable.”
In the junior varsity contest, the Lady Rams defeated the Lady Bulldogs, 35-19.
MWHS 18 11 16 13 – 58
MHS 7 17 6 11 – 41
MWHS – Sydney Shelstead 23, Niya Benavides 15, Kennedy Shelstead 7, Courtney Peña 5, Natalie Ragland 4, Riley Bullock 2, Pamela Hopkins 2.
MHS – Jolee Carswell 13, Mikelyn Kruger 10, Hannah Hobson 6, Sydney Herbel 5, Melissa Jones 4, Lauren Power 3.