McKINNEY — There have been two constants for the Lady Yellow Jackets this season and when they work in tandem, it’s been hard for anyone to slow down Denison — especially lately.
Points have been at a premium against DHS and Woodrow Wilson was the latest to learn that lesson.
“Less than 45 is our goal,” senior point guard Maliyah Butler said. “Communication is the No. 1 thing and it’s something we’ve gotten better at. Blocking out too is another thing we know we have to do.”
The Lady Wildcats felt the sting of that defense which dominated from the start and Taryn Gaines carried the offensive load when her team needed it the most as the Lady Jackets defeated Dallas Woodrow Wilson, 55-38, in a Class 5A Region II area round game at McKinney Boyd.
Denison (20-15) will face Frisco Lone Star (22-9), which advanced with a win over Highland Park, in the region quarterfinals at either 6 or 6:30 p.m. on Monday at Prosper.
It is the second time in three years — and just the second time in program history — that the Lady Jackets, now 7-1 in the past month, are in the third round. A win against Lone Star would put them in the region semifinals for the first time.
“It’s a pleasant surprise with this group,” Denison head coach Rod Been said. “I don’t think I’ve had a team like this to where they’re peaking at the right time. Ever since the second half of district and into the playoffs, they’ve kept it going.”
Gaines had 30 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, Jada Mathews scored eight points, Jade Fry finished with seven points, 10 rebounds and four assists and Butler added six points for Denison, which has won at least 20 games in each of the past four years and is a victory from making school history.
“We’ve surprised ourselves. I never would have believed it,” Butler said. “We’ve grown so much since the beginning of the year. I’m so proud of these girls.”
Shayrimar Gonzalez Pineiro scored eight points while Brynne Darden and Isabel Carreras Herrera each added seven points for Woodrow Wilson (13-21), which was in the area round for the first time since 2014 after knocking out Dallas Spruce, the top seed from District 12-4A, with a 54-34 victory.
Denison went into the fourth quarter with a seven-point lead but in just moments the margin was down to four on a three-pointer by Lauren Kintz.
Gaines responded with a bucket but it was still a single-digit advantage for a couple more minutes. Woodrow Wilson was in a scoreless stretch that allowed Denison to build a 42-29 lead in the middle of the frame. Gaines scored all nine points in the run before Isabel Crow hit back-to-back threes from the left wing — her only points of the contest — to get the deficit back down to seven.
But the Lady Wildcats didn’t score again until Darden’s three-point play with eight seconds remaining with Denison holding an 18-point lead.
The 11-0 run sealed the game. Butler started it with a pair of free throws, Faith Shaw ended it with two more and Gaines had a pair of layups off dishes from Fry in the middle to stretch the advantage back into double digits for good. Gaines scored 20 of Denison’s 33 second-half points.
“Taryn is the key for us. It opens up outside shots, she can drive to the basket, do high-low with Jade,” Butler said. “Taryn puts everything together.”
Woodrow Wilson made just six shots in the second half — three being threes — and never scored more than 12 points in a quarter.
“We extended our zone, we mixed up some coverages,” Been said. “We were able to extend them and turn them over.”
Denison got some breathing room in the third quarter after a rough opening to the half by both teams. Fry scored in the opening minute and then the next points came on a Gonzalez Pineiro layin with just under three minutes to go in the frame which tied the score at 24.
The Lady Jackets went to Gaines, who converted a three-point play and added another bucket. Ashley Brown turned a steal to a layin and Denison took the lead for good. Carreras Herrera had the only other points in the quarter for Woodrow Wilson.
Both teams agreed to play on just one day’s rest so they could have an extra day to prepare for the third round match-up. Woodrow Wilson had the tougher time handling the turnaround but Denison — which held its 28th opponent to 45 points or less — saw its share of struggles offensively as well.
“It was tough to get refocused,” Been said. “Tougher than I thought it would be.”
Denison used a bit of early adrenaline and raced out to an 11-3 lead. Mathews hit two three-pointers during the stretch and Butler’s three in the closing seconds allowed the Lady Jackets to lead 18-10 after the first quarter.
But the crash came as Denison managed just four points in the second quarter, both layups by Gaines with the last coming at the 3:07 mark.
The Lady Wildcats closed the half on a 7-0 burst to tie the game at 22.
“We didn’t do a great job of adjusting in the first half,” Been said. “We put Taryn in the middle and that opened things up for us.”