The hallmark of a young but talented team is long periods of outstanding play, coupled with stretches where the opponent adjusts and suddenly nothing at all goes right.

So it was for Sherman Friday night in District 5-5A play against Denton Ryan.

The shorthanded Bearcats clawed ahead by as many as 13 points early in the second quarter. But the Raiders switched to a man defense, went on an 18-0 run to end the first half and start the second, and went on to hand Sherman a 78-67 defeat at Bearcat Gymnasium.

Talk about a game of extremes. But that’s life for a team that has one senior in the varsity lineup. The Bearcats did finally right the ship, albeit too late to help.

“We played a good 14 minutes and got to halftime with the lead and really felt good about ourselves,” Sherman head coach Marcus Klingsick said. “We’ve done this several times where we’ll get to a point where we shut down. We’ve got to get to the point where we play four quarters and if somebody makes a little run on us … we’re not going to wait 10 minutes to fight, we’re going to fight right there.”

Despite the setback, the Bearcats (17-9, 4-4) remain solidly in fourth place in the 5-5A standings and received an unexpected gift from upstart Denton Braswell, which routed fifth-place Wichita Falls on Friday, 80-52. Sherman still leads Old High and Braswell by two games in the loss column with four games left.

Tempers flared on Sherman’s side in the final minutes after some jaw-jacking from both teams.

The Bearcats were called for three technical fouls and one flagrant foul, had two players ejected outright and had a third player foul out after drawing a “T” from an officiating crew struggling to regain control after generally letting the two teams play for the first three periods.

“We’ve got to do a better job of controlling our emotions,” said Klingsick, who had 10 players available but played just six until being forced to use two subs late. “That’s another learning experience.”

Jaylyn Cleamons and Jeremy Norvell each scored 19 points to lead the Bearcats, and Norvell finished with 10 rebounds to post a double-double. Daishawn Nelson added 13 points and Kemonte Dowdy a dozen.

Jay Wilson scored 18 points for Ryan (15-9, 5-2), followed by Gabe Douglas with 17, Jaron Modester with 15 and Earnest Brown with 11. Dan Dickenson just missed twin digits with nine points.

Early on, Ryan opened in a zone and the Bearcats capitalized with lots of inside looks and lots of offensive boards. Cleamons scored 11 of his points in the first eight minutes and Sherman raced out to a 23-13 lead. Then a deep 3-pointer by Dowdy from the right wing to start the second frame gave the Cats a 13-point lead.

The Bearcats were even able to get junior post Curtis Gay, a defensive specialist, into the offensive flow with a couple of buckets. Gay’s layup on a cut inside bumped the lead to 33-23 with a couple of minutes left.

That got Ryan out of the zone and into a man the next time down the floor, and the balance of fortunes changed at that instant. The Raiders ended the half on an 8-0 run, cutting the Bearcats’ halftime lead to 33-31.

“I thought we did what we wanted to do against their zone and I thought that was good,” Klingsick said. “We’ve just got to be better against their man. Most of the time this year we’ve wanted people to play man against us.”

The Raiders quickly took the lead in the third period and opened with 10 straight points before a Cleamons free throw snapped the run. Ryan built its lead to 53-42 at the end of the third and led by as many as 19 points in the fourth before late 3s by Dowdy and Nelson helped to pare the final margin.

The Bearcats control their playoff destiny and can essentially lock up a berth next Friday if they can get a win at Wichita Falls. Sherman will enjoy the district bye Tuesday.

“We’re going out and trying to be better every time,” Klingsick said. “There’s going to be a playoff game in our future and hopefully good things will happen. I told (the players) if you play like you did in the first quarter, you can beat a lot of teams. We’ve just got to put four solid quarters together.”