By TONY EIERDAM
Mineral Wells Lady Rams head coach Ed Shelstead is looking at the big picture and the near future when deciding what strategies to use while his team plays its non-district schedule.
Even though the Lady Rams easily disposed of Venus, 71-25, Tuesday night at the MWHS gym, the end result and the fact the MWHS ladies raised their mark to 12-5 was of little concern to the coach.
Shelstead had the Lady Rams working on different defenses during the contest, often changing the defensive sets on the fly.
The Lady Rams responded by holding the Lady Bulldogs to single digits in three quarters, including a two-point fourth quarter when more than half of the starters were resting on the bench.
“We started the game mixing up defenses,” Shelstead said. “When we get into district play and face teams like Kennedale and Springtown, we will have to mix up our defenses to keep them off balance.
“We mixed in some zone and some man defenses, and in the beginning I liked the way the girls played and adjusted to those defenses.”
The Lady Rams jumped out to a 16-2 lead as four different ladies figured in the scoring.
The MWHS defense was so strong that Venus did not register its first points until the 5:40 mark of the opening period.
The Lady Rams held Venus to five points in the quarter despite the constant changes defensively.
“I felt like the team kept its focus throughout the game, and for the most part – even though we got sloppy at times – executed pretty well,” Shelstead offered. “The kids are doing what I am asking them to do, and most of the time they are in the places they are supposed to be at.”
Venus also had no answer for senior post Sydney Shelstead, who scored 10 points in the first quarter. She finished with a game-high 23 points and 14 rebounds.
The Lady Rams closed the opening period with a pair of layups.
Junior guard Courtney Peña scored in the paint after a feed from Sydney Shelstead, and Shelstead scored on a layup off a feed from freshman point guard Natalie Ragland, who despite her varsity inexperience is playing like a seasoned veteran.
The Lady Rams added 15 points in the second quarter, ending the period with a nothing-but-net three-point basket from senior wing Niya Benavides as MWHS led 40-16 at the break.
The Lady Rams attacked Venus aggressively to begin the third quarter. MWHS scored on five straight layups by four different ladies as Kennedy Shelstead had a pair of layups, with Sydney Shelstead, Ragland and junior guard Bethany Allen each recording a layup as the MWHS ladies took a 50-16 lead and put the game away.
Another bright spot for the Lady Rams was the play of junior post Ashlynn Robinson, who is coming back after missing a year due to major knee surgery. Robinson scored four points, but also pulled down six rebounds, second-best on the team for the game.
“Ashlynn did a great job,” Ed Shelstead said. “She is a great kid, and she works as hard as anybody in the program. She is an important person on our team.
“She understands and accepts her role this season, and next year we are really going to count on her. I couldn’t be prouder of her. She works hard every practice. She is a solid kid from a solid family.”
Venus ended a scoring drought of 3:47 with a bucket in the middle of the third period, but the Lady Rams put on the defensive clamps and allowed Venus just seven points for the remaining 11:28 of the contest.
Ed Shelstead said the matter of the Lady Rams’ overall record is not discussed within the team.
“Our goal right now is to get better every game, and we are not going to settle with what we have accomplished,” he said. “We need to continue to improve because we have some tough games coming up and in district, which starts in a little more than two weeks (Jan. 4 at Castleberry). We have got to be ready to meet the challenge.
“We have four games until district, and we will have to be ready to mix our defenses up and think on the move. We have some young perimeter players who we rely on, and we have to be locked in and got to be able to think on the move.
“That was what I was trying to get them to do (Tuesday).”
VHS 5 11 7 2 – 25
MWHS 25 15 22 9 – 71
MWHS – Sydney Shelstead 23, Niya Benavides 13, Pam Hopkins 4, Kennedy Shelstead 8, Courtney Peña 6, Bethany Allen 7, Ashlynn Robinson 4, Riley Bullock 3, Natalie Ragland 3.