The feeling of accomplishment was seen on every Denison Lady Yellow Jacket.
After the victory to close out the regular season was in the books, and they lifted the gold ball to the home crowd after having officially clinched the District 5-5A title more than a week and a half ago, the t-shirts signified a season that is the best in school history.
With the letters “LJB” above “UNDFTD” with the middle ‘D’ in the old English style of Denison’s logo, it had been written — Denison finished off its perfect 12-0 run as district champs with a monster finish to its 77-44 victory against rival Sherman at Denison on Tuesday night.
It is a far cry from two years ago, when the Lady Jackets were on the tail end of enduring a stretch of seasons struggling to avoid the bottom of the standings. Then last year Denison made the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and tripled its win total.
“I’m very proud to know where our program came from and where we’re headed,” Lady Yellow Jacket head coach Rod Been said. “If that was a step, we want to keep taking steps. They expect to be successful.”
Zya Nugent scored 31 points, Zachareia Sommers finished with 15 points and Ikia Lacy totaled nine points for Denison (29-4, 12-0), which will take on Saginaw, the fourth seed out of District 6-5A, at 6 p.m. on Monday in the bi-district round.
Jaylen Edmonson scored 20 points and Kursten Alexander chipped in nine points for Sherman (8-23, 2-10), which finished last in the standings and a game behind Wichita Falls Rider and Wichita Falls for a fifth-place tie.
The Lady Yellow Jackets were up by just seven after Edmonson scored five quick points to cut the Lady Bearcats’ deficit to 49-42 with 6:49 remaining.
Denison then broke out a 20-0 run and finished the game by scoring 28 of the final 30 points. Eight different Lady Jackets scored as the gap widened and the game was finished by seniors Suzie Smith and Maddi Nixon hitting three-pointers in their last home games.
“That was really nice to see those seniors cap it off,” Been said. “We have to have some balance in our lineup. People are going to try to stop Zya. Hopefully it’s going to be a fun couple of weeks.”
The game-deciding surge saw Denison hold Sherman scoreless for more than six minutes until Madison Sorrels’ jumper with 1:23 remaining. In between the Lady Jackets pushed the tempo to put away Sherman.
“At that point we wore them down and our experience overwhelmed their inexperience,” Been said. “It’s nice to have a lot of maturity on the floor when other teams make a run at us.”
It looked like Denison was going to take control of the contest in the middle of the third quarter. The Lady Jackets held a 36-28 half-time lead and scored 11 straight points for a 49-31 advantage with 2:28 left in the quarter.
Sherman answered with its own 11-0 run through the end of the quarter and the start of the fourth. Edmonson hit a three at the buzzer and then opened the fourth with another from long range.
“Their girls shot the ball well,” Been said. “They took shots from where we didn’t want them to get to.”
Neither team got off to a good start after Nugent and Alexander made threes in the opening minute. It took nearly three minutes before another point was scored and Denison finished the first quarter strong for a 17-9 lead.
The Lady Jackets carried that over to the second quarter and Sommers connected on back-to-back three-pointers. Denison went up 13 in the middle of the frame only to have Sherman answer with a 10-0 run.
Edmonson closed the surge with a pair of threes and the Lady Bearcats had a chance to take the lead going into the break.
Sommers quelled those thoughts with another three — the teams combined to make 14 in the first half — and Denison held an eight-point advantage.