The Sherman Lady Bearcats have played a lot of games in the first month of the season. There have been ups and downs in that span, injuries to deal with and several tough opponents.
But then there are times when they show a balance to the offense and a shut-down nature on defense that progress is being made, however intermittently it may be.
The latest version of heading in the right direction came as Sherman defeated Gunter, 51-47, in non-district action at Bearcat Gymnasium.
Jastic Eleby scored 14 points, Jayla Jones chipped in 12 points, Jadyne Gatewood totaled 10 points and Lilly Ball added six points for Sherman (6-9), which opens the Highway 5 Tournament against Decatur on Thursday. It also moved the team to one victory short of their total for all of last season as they chase a .500 record before the Christmas break.
“It’s all about being consistent,” Lady Bearcats head coach David Upton said. “We’re winning games now. We have talent in the program. We’re learning to win. Now we’ve got to learn to win multiple times, two and three in a row. We’ve got to repeat that. That’s our next step.”
It is a step that comes without talented freshman Destiny Briscoe, who is out for the year with a torn ACL suffered in the early part of the season. Eleby, a junior who was on JV last year, and another ninth-grader, Jayla Jones, are helping to pick up the slack.
“When Destiny went out with the knee injury, she was averaging 16, 17 points. It’s got to come from somewhere,” Upton said. “Even if they can each score four or five points, it can add up. They’re really coming along, doing well. What they’re trying to do is learn the varsity game.”
Sarah Putnicki had 16 points, 10 rebounds and four steals for Gunter (10-6).
“She’s a good, good player,” Upton said. “Any team would love to have a player like that. Our game plan was to let anyone else beat us.”
Rhyan Pogue added nine points while Bri Carr scored six points and Taylor Boddie and Reagan Andres each chipped in five points for the Lady Tigers, who never trailed by more than eight points in the second half.
Pogue made a three-pointer in the first minute of the fourth quarter to give the Lady Tigers a 43-41 advantage. But it was the last shot that Gunter would make in the game, hitting only four free throws the rest of the way.
Carr made a pair from the line to tie the game at 45 with 4:56 remaining but Jones hit a free throw and Gatewood followed her own miss with a putback to give Sherman the lead for good.
The Lady Bearcats were able to steal a couple of possessions when they snagged offensive rebounds on free throws and Gunter’s two chances in the final minute to pull even missed the mark as the Lady Bearcats held on.
Sherman opened the third quarter with a 7-0 burst that pushed its advantage to 36-28. Eleby hit a three to cap the two-minute run but Gunter responded with a bigger push to reclaim the lead.
The Lady Tigers reeled off a 10-1 run to jump in front, 38-37, in the middle of the third with Boddie converting a three-point play.
Sherman held a 41-40 lead going to the fourth quarter after Jones scored in the final minute of the frame.
Gunter, which made 14-of-16 free throws in the first half, opened the second quarter on a 10-0 run. Putnicki made a pair of baskets and two free throws to go with buckets from Carr and Lindsay Esnard and the Lady Tigers turned a six-point deficit into a 24-20 advantage.
The lead never got bigger than that, however, as Sherman turned up its defensive pressure to convert steals from Jones and Gatewood into points.
After trading shots in the final minute-plus of the half, Gatewood’s drive to the hoop with five seconds left sent the Lady Cats into the locker room with a 29-28 lead.
After Gunter scored the first two points of the game, Sherman produced the next eight with most of it coming on a pair of three-pointers by Eleby. The Lady Bearcats led the rest of the opening quarter with a margin that stretched to 18-9 on a three by Jones.
The Lady Tigers cut into that with a spurt to close out the frame and were down 20-14 after the first eight minutes.