ANNA — It ended much too quickly for the Lady Yellow Jackets, sooner than the previous two year’s playoff trips that included the best season in school history.
Fortunes can change. Luck can change. Circumstances can chance. Realignment can rear its ugly head.
Then there is the matter of the opponent, and in Denison’s case happened to be a team it beat earlier in the season by single digits and ready to exact some revenge at the most crucial time of the year.
“Coming back to Region II was going to be a difficult task,” Denison head coach Rod Been said. “Each year is it’s own individual thing. They have to look at the big picture.”
A three-year stretch for the program has seen such progress, ending an 11-year playoff drought, at least 21 wins in each postseason appearance, a district title, a school record 31 wins and trip to the region quarterfinals this time last year.
“You look at the whole package,” Been said. “We put Denison girls basketball back on the map and that was the goal when we got here.”
In the latter stages of the third quarter, the Lady Jackets were in striking distance. Moments later Frisco Centennial put the game out reach and eliminated Denison, 61-37, in a Class 5A Region II bi-district game on Monday night.
Centennial (25-8) will face either Highland Park or Dallas Adamson in the area round later this week.
Zya Nugent scored 18 points, Jade Fry added nine points and Zachareia Sommers chipped in five points for Denison (21-11), which was without three players, including two starters, due to suspensions in accordance with UIL rules regarding ejections from a game.
“We got beat by a very good team. There’s no what-ifs,” Been said. “We played with the kids we had. With a little more athleticism maybe they don’t get as many easy buckets inside.”
Leila Patel led four Lady Titans in double figures with 15 points. Cassidy Melton had 10 of her 14 points in the first half, Madison Ott finished with 11 points and Madison Cockrell chipped in 10 points for Centennial.
Twice in the third quarter the Lady Jackets were down by five points and it was a 32-26 margin when Fry hit a free throw with 3:25 remaining in the frame. The Lady Titans closed the quarter on an 8-0 spurt, including a layin at the buzzer by Cockrell to extend Centennial’s advantage to 40-26.
The teams traded points in the first minute of the fourth quarter and then the Lady Titans went on 1 4-0 run over the next four minutes to break things wide open. Sommers snapped Denison’s drought with a three-pointer but Hand answered with one of her own.
Nugent followed with back-to-back three-pointers, raising her final school-record tally to 2,835 career points.
Denison found itself down 23-17 at half-time when Centennial ended the second quarter on a 6-0 burst.
Nugent hit a hanging jumper near the free-throw line to tie the score at 17 with 2:57 remaining in the frame before Melton had back-to-back buckets and Hand scored underneath to push the Lady Titans in front by six.
The Lady Jackets missed their chances in the final three minutes as they went scoreless — Sommers had a jumper from the right side rattle out and Nugent missed a pair from the line with 13 seconds showing.
Outside of when Denison pulled even, Centennial led the rest of the second quarter. Patel hit a three-pointer from the left wing to open the frame and Melton scored on consecutive trips as the Lady Titans held a 16-9 advantage.
But Fry converted a three-point play and Ashley Brown, the only sub during the first half and making her varsity debut, hit a three-pointer from the corner with 3:44 left in the half to trim the deficit to one.
Denison’s only lead of the first half came when Nugent scored on a putback for a 7-6 margin with 52 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Lucy Rogers responded with a three-pointer to give Centennial a two-point lead following the first eight minutes.
Fry hit a three-pointer in the middle of the first to tie the game at five. The low output was forced by the Lady Jackets needing to control the tempo, hold the ball and avoid as much foul trouble as the could — which they did by picking up just three in the first half.