History has a way of repeating itself and that was no exception Tuesday night.
The Sherman Bearcats (17-13, 6-4) held off another late Denison rally in the fourth quarter to secure a 93-87 win to clinch the fourth and final playoff spot in District 5-5A.
The victory, coupled with Denton Braswell's loss against third-place Denton, sent the Bearcats (17-13, 6-4) back into the postseason as well as eliminated Denison (10-20, 3-8), which would have moved a game behind Sherman had it pulled off the home victory.
“Our kids knew what was at stake,” Sherman head coach Marcus Klingsick said. “Give credit to Denison because they shot it really well. But I told them just to stay with it. Last time we played them, I know we had a big lead but I was really proud of our guys for the way they kept fighting.”
The Bearcats were led by a strong team scoring effort. All five who scored finished in double figures, led by a game-high 23 points from Blaise Bentsen. Kemonte Dowdy finished with 22 points while Jaylyn Cleamons and Jeremy Norvell each had 19. Rayvon Hester finished with 10.
“Denison is a resilient bunch but I'm proud of our guys for stepping up,” Bentsen said. “We made enough plays on defense and free throws at the end so we'll take that.”
Mykel Anderson led the Yellow Jackets with 20 points, Tarrence Gaines added 18 points and Pierce Barker finished with 12 points for Denison, which closes out its season at Wichita Falls on Friday night.
The two sides were even through the majority of the first half, as Denison held a 23-22 edge after the first quarter. As the first half wound down and with the game tied at 46, a key sequence took place.
After Norvell was issued a technical foul in the first half, the Yellow Jackets were unable to convert the two free throws. The Jackets turned the ensuing possession over and Dontre Flowers was called for a technical foul from the bench.
Sherman converted the two free throws and followed with a two-point basket to take a 50-46 lead into half-time.
“That was a momentum swing,” Klingsick said. “I told our team at halftime that even as their making all these threes, we're still up by four. We just need to keep doing what we're doing right here and things are going to happen and that showed in the second half.”
Sherman would begin to take control of the second half and even held a 16-point lead with five minutes remaining in the game. But Denison would not go away thanks to their outside shooting. It was almost identical to the first match-up, when the Bearcats had a double-digit lead in the closing minutes before the Jackets fought back and had a chance to tie the game with a minute remaining.
This time around it didn't get as close, even though Denison finished with 18 threes-pointers, led by Anderson and Gaines, who made nine of those threes between the pair. In the end, Denison was unable to come all the way back as Sherman finished 10-of-12 from the foul line in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
While Bearcats clinched a playoff spot and knocked out their rivals in the process, Klingsick knows there is still work to be done.
“We need to finish games better,” he said. “The two games we have left are against playoff teams so we're going to treat them like they are playoff games.”