As if there needed to be any more drama surrounding a match-up between Sherman and Denison in any sport, when the Bearcats and Yellow Jackets meet on the basketball court for the second time this season brings about a rare occurrence.
With the regular season about to come to an end, both teams are fighting for the district’s final playoff spot. And while they are not the only two in this fight, the winner will have the upper hand.
So there is plenty at stake for both sides as Sherman (9-19, 1-6) travels to Denison (7-18, 2-5) in District 10-5A action tonight at 7:30 p.m.
The current standings have the Yellow Jackets in sole possession of fourth place and a game up on both the Bearcats and Wylie East. But after losing to Sherman the first time, Denison faces the prospect of falling back into a tie with the Bearcats — who would then own the tiebreaker with two games remaining.
If Denison were to win on Tuesday, the worst the Jackets could do is be in a tie-breaker for the last spot as the program tries to end an eight-year playoff drought.
“This is a must win. If we have any playoff aspirations, we gotta get this win,” Denison head coach Dale Rhodes said. “Yeah we want to beat them and they want to beat us but we’re both playing for something bigger.”
For Sherman, however, a win doesn’t guarantee it would be headed to the postseason for a third straight year. The Bearcats close the season by hosting Wylie East, which earned the victory in the first meeting. So there is a chance that all three could end up like they did after the first round of district — in a three-way tie for fourth.
But before any crazy scenario can play out down the stretch, the next 32 minutes are the most important of the season.
In the first meeting, Sherman came away with a 52-42 victory as Mason Gabriel scored 15 points. Gage Smith added 10 points and Tyler Fulton chipped in seven points for the Bearcats, who have won eight straight in the rivalry.
Zaelin Wimbish, Tarrence Gaines and Cade Gordy all scored eight points for Denison (6-15, 1-2), which had a four-point half-time lead.
“We missed 18 free throws and lost by 10,” Rhodes said. “That’s on me. We’re going to be prepared. We have to be ready.”
Sherman has lost four straight since that victory and all of them have been by at least 10 points, including a 59-44 setback against first-place McKinney North on Friday. The Bearcats were down just two at half-time before the Bulldogs pulled away.
Denison enters the contest off a thrilling 61-58 victory over Wylie East. Gaines had 20 of his 24 points in the second half, including the game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer after Wylie East had tied the game on a three-pointer with 4.2 seconds left.
Nate Uber added nine points, Pierce Barker chipped in eight points and Rustin Workman finished with six points as the Jackets earned the head-to-head tie-breaker against the Raiders if it comes down to that.
“They didn’t crumble. They found a way to get back in it,” Rhodes said. “Their confidence is up but Saturday I would not let them dwell on it. I wouldn’t let them dwell on it (Monday). One game at a time is up on our whiteboard and that’s the mentality we have to have.”