By TONY EIERDAM
LIPAN – New Mineral Wells head girls basketball coach Ed Shelstead put together a non-district schedule designed to help his team prepare for district play.
Specifically, he wanted the Lady Rams to play quality opponents in non-district play so they could compete with the district favorite, Kennedale, the No. 1-ranked team in Class 3A (Texas Association of Basketball Coaches).
Step one of that process was Tuesday night at the sparkling, new Lipan High School gym to face the Class A Texas Association of Baskrtball Coaches’ No. 1-ranked Lady Indians.
Lipan has been to the state championship game the past two years, and with all-state post Shauna Coleman returning among others, should be a favorite to repeat a trip to state, as its ranking indicates.
Lipan, wanting to win its opener on its new home floor and always fired up to play an opponent in higher classifications, did not disappoint the home fans.
Paced by 20 points and seven rebounds from Coleman, the Lady Indians held off the Lady Rams, 56-46.
The Lady Rams were led by senior post Sydney Shelstead, who scored a game-high 25 points and pulled down a contest-leading 13 rebounds.
Lipan used a 25-12 run in the first half – many of its points coming off a smothering press, to take a 10-point lead at the half that provided enough cushion to hold off a late MWHS comeback bid.
“Lipan is scrappy, and they play tough,” Ed Shelstead said. “I felt like Sydney held her own against (Coleman), but we didn’t handle their guards very well, particularly their screens. We showed our youth. We panicked a few times in the first half (which led to turnovers).
“Lipan has a great team and they have a lot of tradition, and we were not ready to play. But I give all the credit to Lipan.”
The Lady Rams were also hampered by volleyball success as four of five starters – Kennedy Shelstead, Niya Benavides, Sydney Shelstead and Bethany Allen – had only one day of practice due to playing on the MWHS volleyball team that reached the second round of the playoffs and was not eliminated until Friday.
Lipan does not play volleyball. However, the coach would not use that as an excuse.
“I was expecting more from a couple of our volleyball girls,” Shelstead said. “But I will cut them some slack. At the end of the day – no matter what you say – it boils down to (not) handling the pressure they put on us. Again, I give all the credit to Lipan.
“We have a lot of stuff to work on.”
The Lady Rams led 5-2 early in the contest.
Freshman guard Natalie Ragland canned a pair of free throws to begin the contest, junior guard Bethany Allen added a layup off a feed from Sydney Shelstead, who hit one of two charity shots to close the short run.
But Coleman got hot from the field, hitting a baseline jumper, a layup and another short jumper to give the Lady Indians a 10-6 lead.
MWHS cut the lead to 12-11 early in the second quarter when junior guard Courtney Peña scored on a layup after a pass from Shelstead.
Lipan’s guards combined for 13 of the Lady Indians’ next 15 points as the hosts took a 27-17 lead at the half.
Lipan extended its lead to 15 points, 36-21, before the Lady Rams showed a little comeback ability.
Peña began the rally by connecting on three of four free throws. After a Lipan turnover, Shelstead scored on a put back to cut the hosts’ lead to 36-26.
Lipan continued to struggle on its offensive end, and the Lady Rams added a bucket by Benavides and a charity shot and three-point bucket from Shelstead to cut the Lady Indians’ lead to 41-32 as the game moved to the fourth quarter.
Consecutive layups by Shelstead with just under two minutes left to play in the fourth quarter cut the Lipan lead to 49-44.
But Lipan responded when guard Lanie Roberts hit a big jumper from the lane to get the lead back to seven points with 1:10 left to play.
Fourteen seconds later, Peña hit a baseline jumper to slice the lead back to five, 51-46.
Lipan put the game away with 30 ticks left on the clock when Tallen Halliday scored on a layup. Lipan hit three of four charity shots to close the scoring.
JV wins opener
Kaleigh Aaron scored a game-high 18 points to lead the Lady Rams junior varsity to a 38-26 win over Lipan prior to the varsity contest.
Also scoring for the Lady Rams were Mason Malone and Carson Couger, each with four points, Scarlett Eaton, Bre Hinojos and Tabby Santibanez, each with three, Rachel Merritt with two and Addi Singleton with one.
By TONY EIERDAM
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