In terms of the raw total, it was not the best defensive performance of the season by the Denison Lady Yellow Jackets. It says something even further when allowing 30 points to an opponent isn’t even one of your five best efforts.
But considering who was unable to put the ball in the basket, there was a reason why head coach Rod Been had reason to beam with pride for his team’s play at that end of the floor.
“I can’t think of a bigger non-postseason win that we’ve had,” Been said. “My girls rose to the occasion.”
Of course the fact Denison relied on getting stops to get a victory wasn’t a surprise. The Lady Jackets have not allowed more than 44 points in a victory and 75 percent of their opponents haven’t gotten to that mark regardless of the outcome. But when it comes at the expense of the defending district champion, well that’s another thing entirely.
By holding Wylie East to just a single basket in the final eight minutes, the Lady Jackets did just enough scoring to pull out a 35-30 victory over the Lady Raiders in 10-5A action at Denison.
“Every game we’ve gone in thinking it’s going to be low scoring,” Been said. “We spend a great amount of time talking about defense and schemes and match-ups.”
Jade Fry scored 14 points, Taryn Gaines added nine points and eight rebounds and Ta’kiya Riddick chipped in six points for third-place Denison (17-15, 6-3), which will lock up at least the third seed for the playoffs with a win at rival Sherman, a team it beat by 41 in the first meeting, on Tuesday.
“They will play us as hard as they’ve played any game,” Been said. “We’ll have to be prepared to play a good, solid basketball game. Take nothing for granted.”
A’kasha Davis had 10 points and Cierra Gooch chipped in eight points for Wylie East (18-13, 7-2), which fell into a first-place tie with McKinney North. The loss also kept Denison’s hopes alive for a three-way tie for atop the standings — a win over Sherman and losses by East and North would split the district title. If Denison wins and either loses, the Lady Jackets have a chance to move up to the second seed.
Denison was able to find enough production in the fourth to complete the rally. The Lady Jackets were in the middle of a six-minute drought when Maliyah Butler made a three-pointer from the left corner to cut the deficit in half.
“We’ve been playing games like that all year long,” Been said. “We were having trouble scoring. We were going to have to hit three-pointers.”
The score stayed that way for nearly three minutes until Riddick’s three from the same spot tied the game at 28 with 3:39 remaining.
“How about that for a kid who wasn’t even in the program last year?” Been said. “Comes up with a steal to give us a possession and hits two big threes.”
Davis answered 18 seconds later to put Wylie East back in front but ended up being the only points the Lady Raiders could muster in the frame.
Fry tied the game on the ensuing possession and it remained deadlocked until her right baseline jumper crept over the rim and in with 1:03 to go. Gooch drove to the basket but her shot hit the other side of the backboard and Gaines followed with a layin with 39 seconds on the clock to make it a two-possession game.
Gooch followed with a three-pointer that was short and fell right to Camryn Nixon, forcing East to start fouling. But when Gaines missed the front end of a one-and-one, Butler scooped up the rebound and made her first free-throw attempt with 14 seconds left before Davis secured the rebound.
The Lady Jackets had committed just one foul to that point in the second half so they started using them and by the time East got into the frontcourt half the time was gone and so was the chance at a comeback.
In the third quarter, it looked like Denison’s drought was going to doom the home team. Fry converted a three-point play in the middle of the frame and that was the only scoring by the Lady Jackets in the stanza.
Neither team scored for two minutes before Taylor Dailey and Davis had consecutive buckets before Fry made it a 24-22 margin. Gooch had a pair of baskets in the final 1:20 and East carried a 28-22 lead to the fourth quarter but the Lady Raiders missed their chance to widen the gap even more, producing just eight points of their own in the frame. East had just 16 points across the final three quarters
Both teams struggled to get anything going in the second quarter — the first points came on a Gaines layup with 4:29 remaining in the half.
Riddick hit a three-pointer for a 17-16 Denison lead a minute later but Gooch’s steal and score with 1:30 to go put Wylie East up, 20-19, at the break.
The first quarter saw the most offensive action as Wylie East held a 14-12 lead at the end of the opening eight minutes. The Lady Raiders jumped in front early before Fry gave Denison the advantage twice, the last at 9-8, before a 6-0 run by East.
Ashley Brown’s three-pointer from the right corner with 10 seconds left allowed the Lady Jackets to trim the deficit to two points.