Sherman coach Beth Tallant likes the draw her Lady Bearcat basketball team got in the Class 4A Region II playoff bracket.

Sherman coach Beth Tallant likes the draw her Lady Bearcat basketball team got in the Class 4A Region II playoff bracket.

Of course, Tallant knows well the pitfalls that result from taking an opponent lightly. So even though Mansfield Lake Ridge has a losing overall record, Tallant has her charges on guard for tonight’s area-round game.

"Records don’t mean anything to me," Tallant said. "I feel like our own record should be better than it is. Lake Ridge has played a tough schedule, and we’ve got to bring our ‘A’ game."

Coming off a nailbiting 62-53 overtime victory over Longview Pine Tree on Monday night, the Lady Cats (17-11) have had almost a full week to get ready for tonight. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Plano West Senior High School.

The Lady Cats got exactly what they needed to carry the day in Monday’s win: Big games from both of their two senior leaders, Sa’Liesha Hunter and Jayzhia Softly, at the same time.

Hunter, who will play ball next year for Southeastern Oklahoma State, finished with 24 points, nine rebounds and eight steals. Softly, who will continue her career at Texas Woman’s University, added 22 points, 14 of which came in the fourth period and overtime.

"They know that’s my expectation every single game," Tallant said. "All five of our seniors have had good practices all week. When all five are firing on all cylinders, we’re gonna be a pretty dang good team. "

The Lady Cats put forth a strong effort in the fourth quarter and extra period to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Pine Tree and its dominating post, junior Sky-Lynn Holmes.

Sherman trailed by 10 points with less than six minutes left and still was behind by eight with 4:35 to go, before going on a 10-2 run — with seven points by Softly — to knot the score, 48-all, with 2:09 remaining in the fourth.

Hunter put Sherman in position to win it in regulation with a 3-point basket from the top of the key with under 30 seconds left, but a missed free throw that would’ve iced it was answered by Holmes’ buzzer-beating 3 to force overtime.

No matter, as the Lady Cats shut out Pine Tree in the extra four minutes to survive and advance.

"That’s the win-at any-cost attitude the kids have," Tallant said. "They compete, and they hate losing more than they love winning. That’s what gives them their drive. I think we’ll see the same mentality (tonight). They know what’s at stake."

Just like Sherman did, Lake Ridge (14-15) put forth a herculean effort of its own on Wednesday night to keep its season going, with Tallant and assistant coaches Terry Mercer, Matt Townsend and Tara Peebles in attendance.

The Lady Eagles rallied from 16 points down in the first half to edge Tyler John Tyler, 57-51. Lake Ridge took a 52-51 lead on Kristian DeWitt’s three-point play with 47 seconds left, then the Lady Eagles made their free throws down the stretch. DeWitt and Kylie Collins each scored 22 points in the win.

Lake Ridge trailed by seven at the half, and that was after going on a 9-0 run to end the second period.

"I looked at my assistants and said Lake Ridge is the better team and don’t count them out, and sure enough, they chipped away and battled back," Tallant said. "They’re very similar to us. They run man-to-man and have a lot of fight. It’s going to be the team that wants it more that’s going to win (tonight)."

Sherman’s girls have been as far as the region quarterfinals only twice before since 1983, which is as far back as the University Interscholastic League’s playoff archives go.

A win tonight would return the Lady Cats to that level for the second time in three seasons and earn them a meeting against either Sulphur Springs, which Sherman beat in the bi-district round last year, or Mansfield Summit.

"I asked the girls at the beginning of the season what their goal was, and Sa’Liesha said she wants to go to state," Tallant said. "They have goals and aspirations, and I like that. I’m excited to be with a group of seniors that want nothing less than that."