Throughout the 1997 junior high/middle school hardwood campaign, tiny Shelby School of Tonto Village produced a highly successful team that continually whipped schools with student bodies boasting hundreds more students.
But that team was basically fueled by standout seventh-grader Dallas Rensch who was a scoring machine.
That has changed this season, Shelby coach Steve Rensch -- also Dallas' father -- says.
"What was once a one-man offense has become very balanced. (The players) have become very unselfish which makes my job easy," coach Rensch said.
The coach bases his team-concept contentions on the results of two opening season games -- a 60-14 win over Beaver Creek and a 46-4 thumping of Pine-Strawberry Nov. 10.
Against Pine-Strawberry, four players scored in double figures. Dallas Rensch and Chicago Houdek finished with 14 each, Alex Cassuto had 13, and Mark Moore 12. The fifth starter, Nicky Cassuto, tallied nine.
Against Beaver Creek, Cassuto contributed 15 and Rensch 13. Houdek led all rebounders with eight retrieves, the coach said.
In assessing the team after a pair of games, the coach said, "I am impressed by the maturing of the boys compared to last year. Although, there is tougher competition ahead."
In previous hoop seasons, Shelby has not fielded a girls team for lack of players. But this year, enough turned out to have a squad and Rensch has been putting them through their paces in regular practice sessions.
However, none of the players -- except for a sixth-grade student -- has prior basketball experience.
"Not knowing the quality of the competition, I had no idea how they would perform in games where most of the real learning takes place," Rensch said.
Much to the coach's delight, the Shelby girls debuted successfully with a 40-2 win over Beaver Creek and a 40-19 triumph at Pine-Strawberry.
Pine's full-court press, Rensch said, gave his team trouble but it wasn't long before a Shelby height advantage began to pay dividends.
Bullet Mulcahey led Shelby to the win with 22 points. Josefa Kamp, Rensch said, added seven rebounds and nine steals.
In the win over Beaver Creek, a lay-up with less than 40 seconds remaining in the game prevented Shelby from scoring a rare shut out.
Mulcahey led scorers with 14 points and Kamp tallied eight.
The team sports a 2-0 record but it is too early for optimistic prognostications, the coach said.
"It's hard to know at this point how the girls will fare. They still have a number of weaknesses in their inexperience. But they play hard and can only get better as the season progresses," he said.