The Denison Lady Yellow Jackets wrapped up a playoff spot nearly a month ago and a few weeks after that clinched the first district title in school history. Last Tuesday they set the school record for victories in a season.
They are charging towards the postseason as one of the top-ranked teams in Class 5A, having won 10 straight and 19 of their last 20 games. There is just one victory left for them to complete an undefeated run through their district schedule.
“I’m proud of these things and I know these girls are too,” Denison head coach Rod Been said. “It hasn’t been a walk in the park. We’ve had some injuries. I’m trying to get them ready and not look past anything.”
Standing in the way of adding another bullet point to this outstanding season — and move the Lady Jackets to the verge of a milestone 30th victory — is their rivals trying to bring a little misery as well as provide a springboard to the off-season with a new district waiting for it next year.
While the Lady Jackets may have their eyes on a bigger prize in the coming weeks, Denison (28-4, 11-0) isn’t going to be overlooking Sherman (8-22, 2-9) tonight at 6 p.m. at Denison to close out the regular season and District 5-5A action.
While it may not technically be Senior Night for the Lady Jackets, who celebrated the careers of Taylor Dawes, Olivia Marr, Maddi Nixon, Suzie Smith, Hannah Hittson and J’Nique Wilson back in December, there would be no better way for Denison to cap a perfect home record this season with another win against its rival.
“They’re going to be proud of it if they get it done. Football’s the big deal but it’s every other sport’s opportunity to grab a piece of that BOTA magic,” Been said. “To have those bragging rights is bigger than running across a Denton girl or a Braswell girl in the summer.”
The Lady Jackets have won six of the last seven match-ups, including the prior meeting last month when Denison overcame a sluggish shooting start for a 58-39 victory. Olivia Marr had 19 points and nine rebounds, Zya Nugent totaled 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals, Ikia Lacy finished with nine points and six rebounds and Taryn Gaines grabbed seven rebounds.
It was a final score that has been similar to how the Lady Jackets, who have improved on last year’s third-place 5-5A finish, have handled opponents this season. In district play, only second-place Denton has kept the winning margin within single digits of both meetings and overall 13 of Denison’s victories have been by at least 20 points.
“We’ve been winning our games and the kids have been consistent,” Been said. “Zya’s a tough match-up for anyone. Her points come from mid-range. They come from lay-ups. If she was just a spot-up shooter you could hope for a bad night. She makes us look pretty good.”
On the flip side, Sherman was right in the thick of it after the first quarter and played the Lady Jackets almost even in the second half.
“I thought we played them head up every quarter but the second when we only scored two points,” Upton said. “If we can avoid having that type of quarter, then we can make it close and give ourselves a chance. But we’re going to have to play near perfect.”
Last Friday Denison earned a 59-46 victory against third-place Denton Ryan. Nugent had 28 points and seven rebounds, Zachareia Sommers added nine points, eight assists and four rebounds, Nixon scored eight points, Lacy totaled six points and 11 rebounds and Gaines finished with seven rebounds and four blocks to clinch the outright district title.
Sherman is hoping to end the season on a positive note. The Lady Bearcats ended a nine-game district losing streak with a 49-42 victory against Wichita Falls on Friday. Libby Ticknor scored 17 points, Edmonson added 14 points and Olivia Bindel chipped in 12 points as Sherman picked up the Senior Night victory for its lone senior, Alaura Andrews.
“We talked about hoe all the things we’ve been working on all season have started to show the last couple of games,” Upton said. “The things we do every day in practice are having more of an impact.”
With everyone else returning, Sherman is hoping the growing pains of the season can turn into a return to the playoffs in a smaller district with newer opponents Lovejoy, McKinney North, Princeton and Wylie East in addition to staying with Denison as the core returns for the 2018-19 season.
“We only had three kids returning with any kind of varsity experience so we looked at it as a rebuilding year. They knew that,” Upton said. “It’s nice to get a win and have some excitement back and energy back.”