The word to describe the first half of District 10-5A action would almost certainly be unpredictable.
Through the first two weeks every team has suffered at least one loss. The program that had the most wins coming into district play is currently on the outside of the playoffs. And the Lady Bearcats are hoping the wave of uncertainty can continue as Sherman (9-17, 0-4) travels to Denison (13-14, 2-2) in District 10-5A action at 6:15 p.m. on Friday.
The Lady Bearcats have lost 14 straight district contests — and 23 of 24 — dating back to 2018. They are sitting at the bottom of the standings and have been without their top two scorers. But after some of the outcomes in district play, anything could happen.
“I would love for them to come out and be locked in,” Sherman head coach David Upton said. “Hopefully that will be Friday night and they can put it together.”
At the other end of the floor is a team wary of the upset bid because it knows a three-year playoff streak is on the line and a Sherman win could seriously jeopardize that.
“They could certainly get in the mix if they pick us off,” Denison head coach Rod Been said. “We have to protect our home court and that starts on Friday.”
The Lady Yellow Jackets sit in fourth place, a game up on Princeton, and just one game out of the three-way tie for first between Wylie East, Lovejoy and McKinney North. It is a frustrating spot for Denison, which could easily be in first place at 4-0 — its losses are against Lovejoy, 38-37, and then to Wylie East, 41-36, on Tuesday.
“We lost to two of the top three but they were both on the road,” Been said. “We have a favorable second half schedule if you look at the way the scores have been posted.”
Denison will host all of the teams ahead of it in the standings at home with its two road games coming against Princeton and Sherman.
“I think we pretty much understand that if we want a shot at the championship, we have to go 8-2 and we’ve already lost our two,” Been said. “It’s still wide open due to road wins and margin of victory. It’s a really, really fun district because there’s no clear favorite.”
That’s where Sherman is hoping to get back into the mix. It’s a tall task for a team on a six-game losing streak where it has failed to score 25 points in half of those outings.
“We’re not scoring the ball well right now. Their confidence is a little shaken,” Upton said. “Consistency is our Achilles heel. The girls have to have the belief in themselves. Everyone has their own strengths and their own weaknesses and they have to work together.”
Defense has been Denison’s calling card so far this season. Just in district play, they have not allowed more than 44 points. But they’ve struggled to surpass that total as well.
“The problem is we have to score the basketball,” Been said. “We’re getting good shots but not making them. We’re just not built to get up and down the court.”
Denison has won seven straight in the rivalry and the two games last season were lopsided at 81-46 and 78-19 with the closest game in the past four meetings being 19 points.
This is a different outfit than those squads, which were led by Zya Nugent — the program’s all-time leading scorer who is Stephen F. Austin’s top reserve in her freshman year.
“I’m watching film on them for the third time this week. We’re approaching them a little different than we had in the past,” Upton said. “The last couple years, everything went through Zya — not only did she do a lot of the scoring but she made everybody around her better.”
Leading this group of Lady Jackets are seniors Taryn Gaines and Maliyah Butler and sophomore Jade Fry. Newcomers like freshmen Camryn Nixon and Jada Mathews could be the difference.
“I feel confident we have experience with our top three,” Been said. “I think it will make the second half of the district season promising. They’re putting in the work; they’re just young.”
Sherman will be leaning on Jadyne Gatewood, the lone senior, as well as junior Sa’Nyah Hunter. Sophomore Lily Ball has become more of a scoring threat lately and if she continues in that role, perhaps the Lady Bearcats can come away with a much-needed win and provide another shake-up to the standings.
“This game is always different. It’s always played with a lot of emotion,” Upton said. “It’s a bigger game than anything they play.”