When Denison had its schedule snipped and trimmed down to get more practice time, it was a strategy that would only pay off if the Lady Jackets showed they were making strides with the extra instructions.

When Denison had its schedule snipped and trimmed down to get more practice time, it was a strategy that would only pay off if the Lady Jackets showed they were making strides with the extra instructions.


The early returns have shown an improvement at both ends of the court but Denison is still looking to get better as the Lady Jackets (1-6) open 13-4A action when it hosts Wylie East at 6:15 p.m. tonight.


"We’ve had some really good practices the last couple weeks," Denison head coach Rod Been said. "We’ve practiced more than anybody in the district I guarantee you that."


The Lady Jackets will play at Sherman on Friday and have games against Royse City and Lovejoy next week before the holiday break.


Denison will have a non-district game at Anna on Dec. 30 before getting into district play full time on Jan. 3 when it hosts Wylie.


Due to the cancellation of the Colbert Tournament last weekend because of weather, Denison’s only game action this season was four contests in the Pottsboro Tournament and non-district match-ups against North Lamar, Melissa and Lake Highlands.


But Been has been more focused on what he has seen day-to-day in practice as a gauge of where this team is headed.


"We’ve put halves together. I’ve seen this team play well," Been said. "We’re starting to defend better."


Denison has found a pair of proven scorers in sophomore guard Jamiah Ballard and junior forward Bailey Nixon. The duo has routinely been in double-figures and the Lady Jackets have been tweaking the supporting cast around them.


"Our offense comes from two players right now," Been said. "There really hasn’t been a third option."


In the early going Denison didn’t have much of a set lineup but has settled on Ballard, Jaydan Hunt, Sara McBride, Sahara Crawford and Dara Williams.


While Ballard and Nixon, who is the first Lady Jacket off the bench, are doing most of their scoring from the outside, Denison is looking at Crawford to help produce around the basket.


"Her and Dara Williams are doing a good job rebounding," Been said. "They get on the boards but they need to turn them into easy baskets."


McBride, the lone senior, has returned to the lineup after injury sidelined her for all of her junior season.


Depth is something of an issue with just Nixon, junior Callie Meek and sophomore Tamara Gisendaner as the reserves on a short bench.


The Lady Jackets finished last in the district standings during 2012-13 with just one 13-4A victory — against Greenville — and closed the year by losing 17 of their last 18. Denison is seeking to find improvement against the bottom half of the standings in a very competitive district.


Last season the playoff teams from the district were 13-4A champ McKinney North, followed by Sherman, Lovejoy and Wylie. All of the teams won their bi-district match-ups before losing in the area round.


"I’m still new to this district but looking at the teams, North, East and Sherman are the top teams," Been said. "I think we’re right in the mix with the bottom half of the district."