Over the span of nine days since their last practice, the Sherman Lady Bearcats were able to hold just a pair of shootarounds with the last coming on the day of the District 13-4A opener against rival Denison.

Over the span of nine days since their last practice, the Sherman Lady Bearcats were able to hold just a pair of shootarounds with the last coming on the day of the District 13-4A opener against rival Denison.


The layoff was something of a concern for the Lady Bearcats, who were now going to play consecutive games with the second contest against state-ranked and defending district champ McKinney North.


There was even a bit of worry when Sherman got off to a slow start in a sluggish game, needing two-thirds of the first quarter to thaw out.


"We needed to get the icicles off our hands," Sherman head coach Beth Tallant said. "We had to find our groove. We hadn’t found it yet and it took us a few minutes."


Once the Lady Bearcats found that groove, Sherman pulled away for a 73-40 victory against Denison on Friday night at Sherman.


Sa’Liesha Hunter led four Lady Bearcats in double figures with 15 points and added four steals for Sherman (3-7, 1-0), which took a 20-point lead early in the second quarter and never lost that large of an advantage the rest of the way.


Jayzhia Softly finished with 14 points, seven steals and five rebounds while Heather Hinkley and Mary Kate Motley scored 11 points apiece for the Lady Bearcats.


Denison (1-8, 0-2) was coming off an 11-point loss the night before in its district opener against Wylie East but held a 5-4 lead in the middle of the first quarter on baskets by Jamiah Ballard and Dara Williams — who each scored nine points to lead the Lady Jackets — and a free throw by Ballard.


It was at that point when Sherman seized control after it shook off the rust from a week of inactivity.


"We weren’t in the shape we needed to be — game shape," Tallant said. "Three days off and you lose everything you’ve gained. We had to find our legs."


Hunter and Softly scored off steals to give the Lady Bearcats the lead for good and then Hunter and Kristen Gittens followed with three-point plays.


Ballard answered with a score and was fouled but couldn’t connect from the line. Williams, who finished with 11 rebounds, scored off the miss to get the deficit back to single digits at 17-9 late in the first quarter.


Sherman scored the final three points of the frame and then started the second quarter with an 11-2 run as part of a defensive effort that forced 17 turnovers in the first half and 30 for the game.


"They did an excellent job executing the press," Tallant said. "We were doing a good in the offense, especially in the half-court, finding the open girl."


Ballard’s free throw with 4:32 left in the half was the Lady Jackets’ first score of the quarter and it took five minutes before Denison’s first basket came on a Jaydan Hunt lay-in.


Meanwhile Hinkley did most of her damage around the basket with eight of her 11 points coming in that eight-minute stretch and Dalea Myles’ putback in the closing seconds gave Sherman a 43-21 lead at the break.


It was a choppy first half that saw a total of 26 fouls — 13 on each team — and 10 players called for at least two. Sherman made 12-of-18 free-throw attempts in the half while Denison was just 6-of-15 from the line. While the whistles lessened in the second half, Ballard fouled out and three others were a foul away from being disqualified.


The Lady Bearcats against controlled the tempo coming out of the locker room. Higgs sparked that stretch with some baskets as the lead grew to 31 before Saraha Crawford’s turnaround jumper netted the first Denison points of the third quarter.


Motley made a pair of three-pointers to help Sherman take a 65-31 lead to the fourth quarter and Tallant continued her strategy of alternating units for four-minute stretches.


"I had faith in any player that I put out there," she said. "I told them before the game that all 10 were going to play."