Too many times in the past couple of seasons both of the match-ups on the basketball court between the Sherman Lady Bearcats and the Denison Lady Yellow Jackets had only one meaning — pride.
There was a good chance that the winner of the second and final meeting was going to avoid last place in the district standings. Regardless, it has been far too long for the outcome to play a role in the playoff chase.
This is another one of those meetings where Sherman and Denison don't affect the district standings. But in this instance, at least one team is headed for the postseason.
Denison locked up its spot with more than a week to go and will finish third in District 5-5A regardless of the finale as the Lady Jackets (19-10, 7-4) travel to Sherman (12-18, 3-8) tonight at 6 p.m.
“We've been on the same script for four years,” Denison head coach Rod Been said. “Now it's a new script. It's nice to be able to take phone calls about playoff sites.”
But Denison also doesn't want to bring any negative momentum with it to its first playoff appearance in 11 years. A loss against a Lady Bearcat squad eager to go to into the off-season with a victory over their rival would send the Lady Jackets into their bi-district contest against either Justin Northwest or Aledo at Gainesville at 6 p.m. on Monday night with back-to-back losses.
Denison earned third in the standings by taking care of business against the four teams below it in the standings — a perfect 7-0 so far against Denton, Wichita Falls and Denton Braswell as well as the first meeting against Sherman.
“It's been a pleasant surprise how the district has played out,” Been said. “I thought this game might be for a playoff spot.”
The Lady Jackets lost both match-ups against Denton Ryan and Wichita Falls Rider, who play tonight to decide the top two spots, but even the two losses against Rider, whose only district loss is against Ryan, were by four points each time.
Then when Denison had its re-match with first-place Ryan,which is looking to finish a perfect 12-0 in 5-5A, on Friday, the Lady Jackets cut the margin from a 19-point loss from last month to an eight-point gap. Zya Nugent had 13 points and Taryn Gaines, a freshman, added 10 points.
“We played them much better first half; we were down only three,” Been said. “We were down by 14 in the fourth and then got it to three or two and they had to take a timeout. It is good to see some growth.”
The growth has come from new and returning players. Sophomore guard Zachareia Sommers has picked up her offensive contributions over the past three games just at the right time.
“She's shown back up on the radar. She's getting involved and for her chipping in 6-10 points, it takes a lot of pressure off Zya,” Been said. “She's always guarding their best player so we know what we're getting there.”
In the first meeting against the Lady Bearcats, Nugent scored 18 points and Gaines chipped in nine points during Denison's 42-34 win. Sherman managed only 17 points through the first three quarters before matching that total in the fourth — Kristen Gittens led the way with 16 points.
Even though Sherman was unable to remain in the playoff hunt, the Lady Bearcats were led by a group of upperclassmen who won more games this season than the previous two years combined.
The Lady Bearcats will finish one spot out of the playoffs, although most likely three games back of getting in, but the competitive nature is something Sherman hopes will carry over to next season.
There was a missed opportunity for a victory on Friday against Wichita Falls as the Lady Cats held a one-point half-time lead before losing, 49-43, on the road. Alyssa Rushing led Sherman with 12 points and 10 rebounds and Ally Hampton finished with 10 points.
“I think they'll be motivated to beat us since we're going to the playoffs and we'll be motivated to not go into the playoffs with a loss to Sherman,” Been said. “It will be a good game. It won't be an easy game.”