MINERAL WELLS —
By TONY EIERDAM
Three times in their first four District 6-3A games, the state-ranked No. 7 Kennedale Ladycats have put up at least 80 points while strolling to a 4-0 record.
So when the Ladycats looked up at the scoreboard at the end of the first quarter of their contest Friday night against the Mineral Wells Lady Rams and had just seven points and were trailing by a point, they had to be worried.
The Lady Rams, on the other hand, were coming off what their coach Ed Shelstead was their “worst game of the year” in a loss Tuesday at Springtown, and they wanted to show Kennedale and the rest of the district that they were better than what they showed on Tuesday.
The Lady Rams trailed by just four points at halftime and went into the fourth quarter behind by 10, but athletic Kennedale, led by 23 points from Autumn Williams, wore down the Lady Rams to take a 67-50 win at the MWHS gym.
However, the Lady Rams (19-7, 3-2) may have achieved more respect in this loss than they had in their three previous district wins.
“I am very proud of our girls,” Lady Rams head coach Ed Shelstead said. “They competed well, and that is always our goal.
“Our goal for every game is to outwork our opponent. Kennedale took us blow for blow and obviously they came out on top, but I am just so proud of our girls right now.
“You think about Mineral Wells (girls basketball) and where they have been the last few years, and they have not played in this kind of an atmosphere.
“Again, I couldn’t be prouder of our girls.”
Shelstead mixed in different offensive and defensive strategies. He began the game defensively in a zone, and it was clear the Ladycats did not know how to handle it.
Guard McKinley Bostad was almost a non-factor (finishing with eight points, well below her season average), and Ladycats leading scorer Autumn Williams hit only two field goals in the first half.
Offensively, Shelstead put post Sydney Shelstead at point guard and instructed her to run the offense.
“We moved Sydney to the point for this game,” Ed Shelstead said. “We moved the point deep to get Williams off the ball, and I thought Sydney did a good job considering she has never played that role.
“She got tired and we had some turnovers late, but overall she had a heck of a game.
“Defensively, it was a good group effort, but how Williams hurt us was the few times she got to the rim down the middle. I don’t think she hurt us in the half court, it was the open court.
“We got tired, and we got a little rattled at times. But Kennedale is a great team, and you have to give them credit. They are athletic, they get after you and they force turnovers.
“Sydney rebounded well and hit some big shots, and Kennedy (Shelstead) also hit some big shots. Bar none, it was the best game Kennedy has played all year.
“Kennedy’s defensive deflections, her hustle and her big shots made us better. I am also proud of Niya (Benavides). It wasn’t easy for her with a Kennedale girl chasing her all night.
“It’s not an easy situation to be the identified shooter (in Kennedale’s defensive scheme). But she did well.”
MWHS jumped out to a 6-0 lead after a pair of free throws from Sydney Shelstead – who finished with 18 points and a game-high 14 rebounds – a three-pointer by Benavides and a charity shot by Kennedy Shelstead.
The lead grew to 8-2 after a driving layup by Courtney Peña before Williams canned a three-pointer and Tahnia McDaniel hit a jumper to cut the lead to 8-7 after the first period.
Williams continued to work hard down low, and she scored seven points in the second quarter to help give the Ladycats a 21-17 lead at the half.
MWHS had gotten behind by seven points, but late in the period Kennedy Shelstead hit a trey and Sydney Shelstead followed with a tough jumper from the right side with two Kennedale defenders bumping her as she swished the 10-foot jumper.
Bostad did the damage in the third quarter by hitting three field goals as the Ladycats took a 43-33 lead into the fourth quarter.
MWHS seemed to wear down in the final stanza, and Williams scored eight points to help seal the win.
“I thought we played really well for three and a half quarters,” Ed Shelstead said. “(Freshman guard) Natalie (Ragland) got four fouls, and her out of a tight game like that hurt us.
“Courtney came in and was a spark for us, but we came up a little bit short. There some things we need to tighten up and fix, but (Friday) I thought our girls showed a lot of character coming off their worst game of the year.
“Our girls bounced back and competed, and we made Kennedale nervous for a little bit. They got on a late roll, and we will give them the same type of game when we go to their place at the end of district.”
The Lady Rams sub-varsity teams split with Kennedale. The Lady Rams junior varsity, now leading the district with a 5-0 mark, defeated the Ladycats, 39-34. The Lady Rams freshmen fell in overtime, 31-27.
KHS 7 14 22 24 – 67
MWHS 8 9 16 17 – 50
MWHS – Sydney Shelstead 18, Kennedy Shelstead 9, Niya Benavides 9, Courtney Peña 7, Bethany Allen 6, Natalie Ragland 1.