The Sherman Bearcats grabbed control early and kept it Friday on the way to an 82-61 victory over Melissa in non-district action at Bearcat Gym.
Kemonte Dowdy and Rayvon Hester each scored 19 points to lead Sherman (10-5) with Jaylyn Cleamons adding 14 points.
Matt Holloway scored 18 points and B.J. Lewis added 10 to lead the Cardinals (4-8). Melissa had five players, including three of Friday’s starters, who had been with the team just a week following the end of the Cardinals run in the Class 4A Division II f0otball playoffs.
Sherman never trailed and opened up a double-digit lead in the first quarter. The Bearcats maintained a 20-point margin most of the final three quarters.
“We had a game last week where we didn’t have much intensity, so we talked about that,” Sherman head coach Marcus Klingsick said. “We came out against Princeton last game out and got after it, so I said this game we’ve got to be at that level or more. We were probably another level up more than that.
“We’ve really been focusing on the defensive intensity, which leads to our offense. Our offense feeds off our defense. I thought that was a key tonight getting off to a big start, our intensity on defense.”
Melissa had 13 steals in forcing the Bearcats into 24 turnovers, but Sherman made up for that with a 43-28 rebounding advantage. Blaise Bentsen grabbed 13 rebounds to go along with seven points, while Jeremy Norvell, who scored eight points, pulled in seven rebounds.
“That’s another thing we’ve really been talking about,” Klingsick said. “People were beating us on the boards and we just decided we couldn’t let that happen.
“We’re trying to be a total team and the defensive effort had to be there, and then the boards. Both of them were there tonight. That was a complete game tonight.”
Adding to the completeness were six assists from Hester and four from Dowdy.
Sherman finished 32-of-66 from the field (48.5 percent), while holding Melissa to 35.4 percent (23-of-65). The Cardinals were able to stay within reach by hitting seven 3-pointers, three of them by Holloway.
Dowdy sparked the Bearcats with 10 points in the first quarter, hitting a 3-pointer 3:02 left in the period to give Sherman an 18-7 advantage. After the Cardinals closed the gap to 26-17, Dowdy hit another 3 with six seconds left to give Sherman a 29-17 lead at the end of the quarter.
“The last couple of games, I’ve been in kind of a shooting slump,” Dowdy said. “It felt real good to come out and show everybody that I can make these shots. I need to be making these shots.”
Sherman took a 42-21 lead on Norvell’s basket with 5:14 left in the second quarter and Melissa never got closer than 16 the rest of the way. The Bearcats, who led 53-32 at halftime, pushed the margin to 25 in the third quarter on a basket by Cleamons. Curtis Gay, who scored all of his six points in the fourth quarter, twice gave Sherman a 26-point lead, at 72-46 and 79-53.
Klingsick said being able to maintain the lead for so long allowed him to empty the bench early.
“It was big getting guys some rest,” he said. “Some games, we have to play some of these guys a lot of minutes.
“The other guys came in and I thought most of them did a pretty good job of doing what they were supposed to do. They played their positions and did what we asked them to do. That was huge tonight to get that and to keep the lead. We just kept the thing rolling all night long.”
Hester, who had 16 points in the first half, said the starters received just enough playing time.
“It worked pretty well,” he said. “We got to rest. We’re all still sore. It was good to have everybody rotate around.”
Melissa had decent scoring distribution as it worked several new faces into the rotation. Hunter Sparks had seven points off the bench with Mark Fisher and Cole McCraw adding six apiece. Brendon Lewis, Josh Wood and Chase Mapps all had five points.