Three turned out to be Sherman’s magic number. And because of that, the Lady Bearcats’ magic number to reach the playoffs for the first time in 12 years keeps dwindling.


“We’re trying to learn how to get there,” Sherman head coach Ashley Aleman said. “It’s not pressure. It’s reality. This is what it takes to get to your goal.”


Madi Gladen had 15 kills as the Lady Bearcats defeated the Denison Lady Yellow Jackets, 25-21, 25-22, 25-16, in District 5-5A action at Denison on Friday night. It was the third time this season Sherman beat Denison.


“We definitely prepared the last two days. We learned from what they executed on us the first time,” Aleman said. “We always talk about what you can control. Control the mental game. Control the serve game.”


The victory moved Sherman (27-8, 4-4) into sole possession of third place with four matches remaining while Denison (22-11, 3-5) dropped to fourth place and has a half-game lead on Wichita Falls and Denton for the final playoff berth. The Lady Bearcats also now own the tie-breaker with the Lady Jackets after taking the first district match-up last month, should it be needed.


“Every games a must-win if you want to make the playoffs,” Aleman said. “It’s a numbers game. If we all do our part, we’re going to be alright. This is what it’s going to take.”


Rylie Bernard added seven kills and 10 digs, Sarah Graham chipped in five kills and three blocks and Dallas Aleman handed out 26 assists to go with 14 digs for Sherman.


Taylor Greenameyer had 12 kills and 15 digs, Kiara Scott chipped in 10 kills, 11 digs and four aces, Drew Hayes finished with eight kills, Courtney Gillespie handed out 31 assists, Taylor Dawes collected nine digs and Taryn Gaines added three kills and three blocks for Denison.


“Sherman played well. We played well,” Denison head coach Jana Kelly said. “Something we’ve struggled with is finishing the game strong. We have to find another gear. We haven’t found that extra gear.”


Not helping Denison’s cause was that four-year starter Kenli Powell was injured in Tuesday’s loss to Ryan and unable to play.


“She’s a big piece of this puzzle and that was missing,” Kelly said.


While the last match went the distance when Sherman pulled out a 19-25, 25-17, 25-23, 15-25, 15-10 victory, this one saw the first two games be close but the Lady Bearcats made enough plays down the stretch to take both of them.


In Game 1, Sherman scored the first four points but Denison tied the frame at nine. From that point, neither team held more than a two-point lead. Scott put down a couple of kills to aid Denison while Kylie Jackman and Graham had plays at the net for Sherman.


Alexis Jackman had a block to give the Lady Bearcats the lead at 18-17, only for Denison to tie it as Scott overpowered a block attempt. Bernard’s kill started a 3-0 spurt that provided enough of a cushion for Sherman to close out the game.


The start of Game 2 was tighter and runs were extremely hard to come by. Sherman scored three straight points for a 15-12 advantage, capped by a Kylie Jackman block, and the Lady Cats eventually built a 19-15 lead.


Scott sandwiched kills around one from Taryn Gaines and then Hayes put a kill down to tie the score at 20. Scott followed with an ace, Sherman tied it back up before Greenameyer handled a block attempt for a 22-21 advantage.


The Lady Jackets couldn’t carry that momentum any further and Sherman notched the final four points to avoid going to Game 3 tied.


Sensing a chance to finish off the win, Sherman came out strong with Gladen leading the way to a 5-1 advantage. Denison scrapped its way back into the stanza and Gaines had a block that pulled the Lady Jackets within two at 9-7. But the first major run of the match started with back-to-back kills by Gladen, Bernard put down an ace and suddenly the Lady Cats were up by eight.


Denison was never able to close the gap within five points and was never within seven after it was 19-12. The Lady Jackets play at co-leader Wichita Falls Rider on Tuesday but close against the three opponents — Denton, Wichita Falls and Braswell — it beat in the first half.


“We win out and we finish 7-5, which is what we finished last year and it was good enough to get in,” Kelly said. “Our fate, our destiny is still in our hands. When we don’t take care of business, then we need help down the road and that’s not something we want.”