The Sherman Lady Bearcats were going to be playing from behind at the start of district play. Since they didn’t win a game against 10-5A opponents last season, they hold an underdog status until putting a victory in the standings.

But Sherman didn’t want to start at this type of disadvantage, going scoreless in the first quarter and being forced to play catch-up during a 43-19 loss against Princeton in the district opener at Bearcat Gymnasium.

“It was because of our defense that we were still in the game,” Sherman head coach David Upton said. “We just couldn’t do anything offensively.”

Abby Khader had five points and 10 rebounds, Sa’Nyah Hunter added five points and Lily Ball chipped in three points for Sherman (9-14, 0-1), which plays at Wylie East on Tuesday night.

Raylee Cave had 12 points, Kaitlyn McKenna added 10 points and Makenna Walker chipped in seven points for Princeton (16-7, 1-0), which was the other non-playoff qualifier along with Sherman last season.

The Lady Panthers’ leading scorer, Kendra Gillispie, managed just a single point that came with 2:53 left in the game.

“Lily Ball and Ally Baker, I told them I wanted to know what kind of gum she chewed. That’s how close I wanted them,” Upton said. “They did a great job. She didn’t score except for a free throw.”

Princeton scored in single digits in both the third and fourth quarters with just a two-point advantage during those stretches. The Lady Panthers were able to be plus-19 in the first and third frames and that was enough despite barely scoring 40 points.

It was a 12-0 deficit for Sherman after the opening eight minutes and the margin was not much bigger — 13 — as Princeton went into the break up 20-7.

Cave led the way in the first quarter but the Lady Panthers went four minutes where they made just a single basket. A combination of misses and turnovers kept Sherman scoreless but Princeton couldn’t take full advantage.

The second quarter was essentially a stalemate. The Lady Bearcats broke their nearly 10-minute skid on a fast-break layin by Ball. Andre’sha Luper had the only other bucket for Sherman in the half to go with a free throw from Hunter and a pair at the line by Khader with 16 seconds to go in the half to make it a 13-point game.

Princeton connected on just three shots in the quarter and none in the final 5:37, netting only a pair of free throws until intermission.

“That was our end-of-the-quarter speech and at half-time,” Upton said. “It’s four possessions. We could be right back in it.”

The problem was that the offensive woes carried over into the third quarter and by the time Sherman was able to get going near the end of the stanza it was too late. Princeton opened the half on a 12-0 run across the first six minutes to pump the lead to 25 with Cave and Walker doing much of the work. All seven of the Lady Bearcats’ points were in the final two minutes — Hunter hit a pair of shots and Khader made a three-pointer from the right wing.

Sherman got within 18 on Baker’s steal and layin to open the fourth-quarter scoring but neither team did much the rest of the way as they combined for 14 points.

“We’ve got to be able to score. We’ve got to be able to take care of the basketball,” Upton said. “I don’t know if it was district jitters. We’ve got to play better than that and we’re capable of it.”