Considering the way the Lady Yellow Jackets had been playing, the 11 days between games might not have been a wise decision in hindsight.
Denison was starting to build momentum as it is inching towards a winning record. Then after a chance to refuel and refresh for the final six weeks of the season, the Lady Jackets returned to the court with district play right around the corner.
“I really liked my schedule to give them a break right now,” Denison head coach Rod Been said. “I liked the extended time off. The question was if we would come back sharp. It’s good for us to see where we’re at.”
There was a resounding answer as the Lady Jackets defeated Justin Northwest, 54-27, in non-district action at Denison. It was the sixth win in the past seven games and comes at just the right time for the stretch run and a chance to make the playoffs for the fourth straight season, which has never been done in program history.
Taryn Gaines had 31 points, 11 rebounds, seven blocks and three assists, Jade Fry added 13 points, six rebounds and three assists, Mykayla Guidry chipped in four points and seven rebounds and Camryn Nixon totaled three points, six rebounds and seven assists for Denison (10-10), which plays at Bridgeport on Friday. The Lady Jackets then close out non-district play by hosting Krum on Tuesday before opening District 10-5A action on Jan. 10.
“I’m still hopeful our best basketball is still in front of us,” Been said. “Hopefully we can make some noise when district gets here.”
Joi Dunn scored 10 points and Campbell Herr added six points for Justin Northwest, which was held to single digits in every quarter.
In each of the past six wins, including four straight, Denison has held opponents to 44 points or less and five foes were unable to crack 35 points.
“Jade missed the first part of the year with a knee injury. Her coming back has been big,” Been said. “There’s a lot of things in the chemistry department that are getting better.”
Fry and Gaines scored all of Denison’s points in the first quarter. The Lady Jackets raced out to an 8-2 advantage and led 18-6 after the opening eight minutes. Gaines had four straight baskets in the middle of the frame to push the margin into double digits as she had 12 points in the frame and 19 at the half on the way to outscoring the Lady Texans by herself.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s averaged a double-double so far, and we’ve played some teams that were triple-teaming her,” Been said. “She’s been good. Very gifted and very athletic.”
Northwest nearly went the final five and a half minutes of the first without a point before Josie Copeland put back her own miss with just over a minute to go.
The struggles continued into the second quarter for the Lady Texans as Denison continued to expand its lead. Jada Mathews hit a three-pointer to join Fry and Gaines in opening the stanza with an 8-0 run.
When Nixon drilled a three-pointer with 2:24 to go in the half, the Lady Jackets were up 32-9.
Dunn made a pair of threes as the only points from Northwest in the quarter until Kayli Scott’s bucket with 41 seconds before the break as Denison went into the locker room with a 36-14 advantage.
Gaines scored all 10 of the Lady Jackets’ points in the third quarter, including three straight baskets in the first two minutes of the half, and Denison was up 46-22 going to the fourth quarter and well on its way to the win.