With Christmas break having already begun, the Bearcats wanted to do something in the spirit of the holiday season. So for the final home game until the new year, the team held a Silent Night outing with the student section decked out in ornament pajamas, reindeer onesies and Santa hats.
They were to be quiet from the opening tip until Sherman scored its 10th point of the game. No cheering for a three-pointer. No complaining about a foul. Just waiting to erupt on point No. 10.
Kasai Burton did the honors with a free throw a little more than four minutes into the game. But the sophomore guard really provided a reason to make some noise with a lights-out performance in the third quarter of Sherman’s 68-47 victory over Melissa in non-district action at Bearcat Gymnasium.
Burton made four three-pointers and totaled 18 points right after half-time to help Sherman turn a five-point lead at the break into the blowout win.
“He hits one, give him another,” Sherman head coach Jordan Marks said. “Let’s keep knocking on the same door if it keeps opening.”
Burton finished with 25 points, Mason Gabriel added 13 points and Jalarien Wilson chipped in 11 points for Sherman (5-10), which will compete in the Cedar Creek Tournament in Bastrop starting on Friday.
“It’s not just those three,” Marks said. “People are going to score. It’s going to be a fun brand of basketball.”
Seven different Bearcats got in the scoring column in this one but defense also played a big role. Sherman held the Cardinals to single digits in the first and fourth quarters and 12 in the second thanks to limiting possessions with Wilson and Dadrien Calhoun-Moore attacking the glass.
“We were rebounding poorly. We spent 20 minutes every day in practice this week working on rebounding,” Marks said. “We’ve shown we can do it. It just has to be consistently.”
Ezra Monroe scored 18 points, Phoenix Bramhall added 13 points and Hudson Czarnecki finished with eight points for Melissa (8-7), which held Sherman to seven points in the second quarter to get within five. But the Cardinals trailed by double-digits for almost all of the final quarter and a half.
“We talked about attacking more,” Marks said. “The shots will come from the outside and open things up if we’re attacking the basket.”
Burton was able to do both in the third. He started the quarter with a three that was followed by a bucket from Wilson before Melissa got within six less than two minutes into the stanza. Burton then spearheaded a 14-3 run to give the home team a 17-point lead.
He began by inbounding the ball off the back of a Cardinal under the basket for a layin and hit a pair of deep threes. Burton scored on the break after Wilson fed him following a steal and added another drive to the hoop. At one point he had 10 points in barely a minute of action.
A late 8-0 run by the Cardinals — all but two of it at the free-throw line — made it a nine-point margin. Gabriel then connected on a long three-pointer from the right wing at the buzzer.
Melissa’s final push to get back into the contest came in the middle of the fourth when it trailed by 10. Sherman then put the game away with a 13-0 run. Gabriel had a three-pointer and Xzavier Roberson provided the finishing touches that made it 65-45 with just under three minutes to go. The only points by the Cardinals in the final 5:56 were a pair of free throws.
Melissa opened the second quarter with three-pointers from Czarnecki and Bramhall to get within four points. Sherman was a little careless with the ball and it allowed the Cardinals to hang around. The Bearcats also had a five-minute stretch where they didn’t make a shot — Wilson hit a free throw for the only offense in that span — and Monroe’s layin with 1:25 remaining in the half cut Sherman’s lead to one.
Gabriel responded with a floater in the lane on the ensuing possession and Wilson’s putback in the final seconds allowed the Bearcats to hold a 25-20 advantage at the break.
The Bearcats jumped out to a 7-0 lead as Gabriel kick started the game with a three-pointer. Wilson scored twice in the final two minutes of the frame on putbacks, including a tip-in at the buzzer to give Sherman an 18-8 advantage after one quarter.
Monroe had five of Melissa’s points, converting a three-point play, but Bramhall’s three was the only other shot the Cardinals made in their sluggish start.
Sherman still has a month to go before the District 10-5A portion of the schedule finally arrives. Slated to play as many as eight games before then, the Bearcats are looking to build on the positives, like this outing against the Cardinals, as they seek a return to the playoffs following a one-year absence.
“We’ve got a long season ahead of us. We’re still 0-0 come January 17,” Marks said. “We still have a lot to put together until that point.”