The prevailing message during practice the past two days was the same in both gyms — with Sherman and Denison on equal footing at the bottom of the standings, the loser of their match-up was going to find themselves alone in last place.

The prevailing message during practice the past two days was the same in both gyms — with Sherman and Denison on equal footing at the bottom of the standings, the loser of their match-up was going to find themselves alone in last place.


"It’s going to be kind of a last-man standing situation," Sherman head coach Greg Nix said. "If we were to win the ones we think we should and be competitive in, that puts us at 7-7 and that’s where we were last year in a playoff against Royse City."


Despite having just one win apiece in district play, there is more than pride at stake as Sherman (9-8, 1-5) travels to Denison (4-12, 1-5) to close out the first half of 13-4A action tonight at 8 p.m.


With an extremely top-heavy district, both the Jackets and Bearcats enter this contest just two games out of third place. While McKinney North has yet to lose in district and Lovejoy has just one loss, everyone else has already lost three games.


Greenville, Wylie East and Royse City are all tied for third with 3-3 records.


"You could be right there in the hunt if you take care of business Friday," Denison head coach Chet Byerly said. "They all become must wins if you’re not facing McKinney North and Lovejoy. Everybody’s beating up on each other and we’ve got to start winning games."


Denison started the new year with a victory over Wylie but lost three straight and none of them have been close.


"We’ve got to get better at our skills but right now our biggest obstacle is our mentality," Byerly said. "When things go bad, it just snowballs on us. We’ve had trouble stopping that avalanche from continuing."


McShane Wyatt scored 20 points in Denison’s loss against Wylie East and the sophomore guard has been the Jackets’ most consistent scorer.


"McShane did an excellent job of getting to the basket, being aggressive," Byerly said. "He’d been in a stretch where he was trying to be just a shooter."


Caleb Ross and Delwin Washington have been making their presence felt in the rebounding department but the Jackets will need a better collective effort on the offensive end going forward.


Sherman’s lone district victory came last Friday against Greenville. The Bearcats have been close to pulling off some other victories but came up short — margins against Royse City and Wylie East were by seven and eight points.


"We felt we let two games get away from us," Nix said. "We’ve been consistent in our inconsistency."


The Bearcats were short-handed in a loss to McKinney North on Tuesday when J’Lynn Thompson took a first-quarter elbow to the mouth that required five stitches and sidelined him for the rest of the game.


The junior is expected to be ready to go after sitting out practice Wednesday and Sherman can not afford to miss his 22-point-per-game average.


Only Thompson and senior Tre’ Mask are the holdovers from last year’s Bearcat squad that rallied out of a deep hole in the second half to make the playoffs. Newcomers Banner Sullivan, Treyson Jones and Ty Williams are going to have to overcome some disadvantages to make that happen this season.


"We were a small 4A team last year and we’re even smaller this year," Nix said. "Our tallest starter is six-one if he’s standing on his toes."


And while there is still another of these rivalry games left — at Sherman to finish out the schedule — this will be the last of more than dozens to take place in the old Denison gymnasium before the Jackets pack up for a new location next season.


"This is the last time for Sherman-Denison in that gym. That’s where I went to high school and it’s my favorite place in the whole town," Nix said. "We used to get the keys and sneak in there at night. I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing there. I’d love to say Sherman won the last time in the gym."