After waiting a week to get back on the court, the Sherman Bearcats had well-rested legs and were ready to put them to good use.
They needed every ounce of stamina to race past a ranked opponent as Sherman defeated Burkburnett, 83-78, in non-district action at Bearcat Gymnasium.
“To play a game in the high 70s, 80s, we want to get up and down,” Sherman head coach Jordan Marks said. “I knew it would be up tempo. That’s their style of play.”
Mason Gabriel had 18 points, Kasai Burton chipped in 16 points and Xzavier Roberson finished with 15 points for Sherman (2-3), which will face Timberview at noon on Thursday to open the Spring Creek Tournament.
In total, 11 different Bearcats got in the scoring column and seven of them scored at least five points.
“I love a team where there’s balanced scoring,” Marks said. “We don’t want to have to rely on a single 20-point scorer. You make them hard to guard when there’s contributions from everywhere.”
Doriean Smith scored 18 points, Jaden Arnold added 17 points and Jaevion Moreland chipped in 15 points for Burkburnett (6-2), which was ranked 24th in Class 4A in this week’s Texas Association of Basketball Coaches statewide rankings.
“They didn’t quit. They made us play 32 minutes of basketball,” Marks said. “They got us better tonight.”
The Bearcats opened the season with losses in three of the first four games but all of the defeats were by nine points or less, including a 72-66 setback to L.D. Bell before the Thanksgiving break.
“I told the kids this past week we were close. We were turning the corner,” Marks said. “We had to go find a win.”
Sherman found it by getting off to a fast start that led to an 18-point half-time lead.
“We hit shots,” Marks said. “When you hit shots it makes the game a lot more fun.”
And when Burkburnett tried to make a run a couple of times in the second half, the Bearcats never let the Bulldogs get closer than nine points until the final 10 seconds.
“I was proud of our composure in those moments,” Marks said. “You knew they would go on a run. You’ve got to be able to withstand those flurries.”
Sherman held a 74-59 lead with 3:11 remaining when the Bulldogs tried to make a final push. Three straight baskets trimmed the deficit to nine with just over two minutes remaining but the Bearcats got a putback from Jalarien Wilson and two free throws by Gabriel with a minute left.
T.J. Newton’s putback with 9.7 seconds finally broke the nine-point barrier as the Bulldogs were down seven and Moreland’s three-pointer in the final seconds made the score look closer than it was.
The Bulldogs opened the fourth quarter with a putback and two free throws and Sherman’s lead was down to nine. Gabriel hit consecutive jumpers from the free-throw line and restored the double-digit margin with 5:35 to go.
Burkburnett came out firing in the third quarter and in two minutes it closed the gap to 11 points. The Bulldogs made four three-pointers in a 11-4 burst.
A three-point play by Arnold in the middle of the third was the first time Burkburnett was within single digits since the first quarter. But Sherman responded as Roberson came up with a steal and took it the other way and Burton had back-to-back buckets before hitting two free throws to get the Bearcats back up by 15 points.
The Bearcats scored the first seven points of the second quarter to push their advantage out to a 25-9 margin.
Roberson made three three-pointers during the stanza, including sandwiching a pair around two free throws from Burkburnett. Tre Boyd scored underneath as Burton found him out of a double team and Elijah Chapman converted a three-point play to cap the stretch which pushed Sherman’s lead to 36-22. In the final 30 seconds of the half Braiden Speed made a three-pointer and Gabriel scored on the break as the Bearcats went into the locker room with a 46-28 advantage.
Burkburnett made only three shots from the floor during the frame but did connect on 12 free throws to avoid a bigger deficit.
Sherman held an 18-9 lead after the first quarter as Burton scored a third of those points to pace the Bearcats’ early offense.