There is always an advantage, however slight, to playing at home. Through the first two-thirds of the season, the Sherman Bearcats are taking defending their turf to an extra level.
And after Sherman defeated Geelong, a team from Australia, 71-68, in non-district action at Bearcat Gymnasium to add another victory proving that point, the success needs to follow on the road.
“We sat down about it as a team. It was a conversation me and the guys had to have,” Bearcats head coach Jordan Marks said. “We play different at home. You’ve got to carry whatever you do before the game. You’ve got to carry over the energy. You’ve got to play like that in other gyms. This next stretch of games will help us practice that.”
Sherman improved to 4-1 at home and is 0-3 in true road games to go with a 3-9 record in tournament play, including a 1-3 mark over the weekend at the Cedar Creek Tournament down in Austin.
Kasai Burton scored 16 of his 22 points in the first half, Mason Gabriel added 19 points and Xzavier Roberson chipped in 13 points for Sherman (7-13), which plays at Mount Pleasant on Friday.
Ethan Nicholls and Ethan McDonald each scored 15 points and Ryan Robinson added 10 points for Geelong.
After Gabriel hit two free throws with 1:44 remaining to make it a 10-point margin, the Bearcats had to burn off the rest of the time. The first steps in that direction were strong before Robinson had a putback and then McDonald hit a three with a minute left to make it a two-possession game.
Sherman killed off most of those moments before McDonald’s bucket with 16 seconds to go but Geelong never had a final shot to try and force overtime.
“This year more so than last year, we can trust those guys in space,” Marks said. “I was looking to see just how they knew what we would need to do in certain situations. The kids have to make sure the lead doesn’t shrink like it did. This is a good time to learn those scenarios.”
A 9-0 run in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter proved to be the difference. Burton sandwiched baskets around a jumper from Mathias Coleman and then Gabriel hit a three-pointer for a 63-52 lead.
Nicholls responded with a three of his own to end the run but Coleman contributed to contribute off the bench with another score.
“What can you do to help the team be successful? The last couple games we’ve tried putting guys in positions they’re not used to to help this team win games,” Marks said. “Mathias Coleman, he had a stretch in the fourth quarter and he’s really found his niche with this group.”
Geelong’s only lead in the second half — 47-46 — came on a three-pointer from Robinson to cap a 7-0 spurt with 2:52 remaining in the third quarter. Elijah Chapman had a putback on the ensuing possession and the best Geelong could do the rest of the way was a pair of ties, the last at 52 before Roberson’s drive to the hoop with 17 seconds to go in the third.
Geelong kicked off the second quarter with consecutive three-pointers to take its first lead of the game at 18-17. Sherman’s deficit crested at four points — 23-19 — before Burton made two straight layups, the last off a steal by Roberson.
After trading baskets for the next couple of minutes, Burton gave the Bearcats a 32-28 lead but Nicholls had an answer for Geelong and the visitors were up 35-32 with 1:34 to go in the half after his three-pointer and basket.
Sherman was able to hold a 37-35 advantage at the break on a layin from Eliyzia Dantzler and then Roberson converted a three-point play with 17 seconds showing on the clock.
All but three of those points came from Burton, Gabriel and Roberson while Geelong had nine of 10 players get in the scoring column to that point with none producing more than six points.
“Those three get us going early,” Marks said. “It’s about trying to get those guys around them to get some points.”
Sherman raced out to a 9-0 lead and was up 12-2 before Geelong started to chip away at the deficit.
Burton hit a pair of three-pointers during the stretch, including banking in his first from the left wing, and Roberson connected from deep in the middle of the quarter to push the advantage to double digits.
But as hot as the Bearcats started, they made just two shots and a free throw the rest of the frame on a pair of buckets from Gabriel and held a 17-12 lead after the opening eight minutes.