Sherman’s girls can gain a little payback for some early-season losses. The Bearcat boys can continue to get their legs under them and prepare for the heart of district play.

Sherman’s girls can gain a little payback for some early-season losses. The Bearcat boys can continue to get their legs under them and prepare for the heart of district play.

The 11th-annual Sherman Holiday Tournament will have a more-streamlined look when the ball goes up in the air at noon on Thursday. For the first time, both the boys and girls brackets will have only one division each. The reason for that is several-fold, Bearcats head coach Greg Nix said.

"There are more (competing) Christmas tournaments, and also UIL (University Interscholastic League) rule changes," Nix said. "A lot of teams chose to go to just two tournaments. When you’re in an eight-team district, and you play two district games and stop to play a tournament, coaches are afraid that players might get hurt.

"And also, there are finances," Nix added. "Silsbee was in the tournament right up until November, but they couldn’t get the bus transportation. We had the hotel space reserved for them and were willing to waive the entry fee, but they couldn’t get the finances to work."

Additionally, the girls will be utilizing a pool format for the first time, joining the boys, who themselves will be using it for the third time in four years.

"I’m excited about it," Lady Cats head coach Beth Tallant said of the new format. "We’ll get to play more games. In an eight-team tournament, pool play is the way to get more games. It’ll be good for us to get to play."

Proceeds from the tournament will once again benefit the Sherman basketball program and college academic scholarships for graduating basketball players.

Each team will play three games over Thursday and Friday, with the top two finishers in each pool going into a Saturday bracket to advance to the final. The bottom two finishers in each pool will play on Saturday for a consolation championship.

The Lady Cats (5-8) will make their second acquaintance against no less than four teams they have already faced this year — McKinney Boyd, Celina, Melissa and Howe.

Sherman was 1-3 against this quartet, with the three losses coming at the very beginning. After a close 56-52 loss to Boyd — Tallant’s former school — in the season opener, the Lady Cats were blown out by Celina, 78-43, and followed that with an 82-73 loss to Melissa.

"McKinney Boyd was a very emotional game for my girls as well as for McKinney Boyd’s girls," Tallant said. "We didn’t perform the way we could have and should have against Celina; we didn’t have our guns ready for them. Against Melissa, we’ll be a little more prepared for what they have."

Since the three opening losses, the Lady Cats have played .500 ball, including a 3-1 start to District 13-4A play.

Howe, which Sherman beat by 30 points, is in the Lady Cats’ Pool A along with McKinney Boyd and North Lamar. Celina and Melissa are in the opposite Pool B along with Plano and Lake Highlands.

Meanwhile, on the boys side, the Bearcats (3-5) are in Pool A with Celina, Lake Dallas and Spring Woods.

The Bearcats will open against Spring Woods at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, and will take on Lake Dallas at 11:30 a.m. and Celina at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

"Lake Dallas has two or three nice players," Nix said. "They’ll be the toughest one in our pool. Celina’s got some young players; they’re about a year away, but they’re starting to get some move-ins, being just up the road from Prosper."

In Pool B, Denison and Collinsville join Mount Pleasant and McKinney North’s junior varsity. The Yellow Jackets will play Collinsville at 3 p.m. on Thursday, followed by games on Friday against North JV at 10 a.m. and Mount Pleasant at 4 p.m.

"I’m excited to see Mount Pleasant in," Nix said. "K.D. Cannon plays basketball, and it’s pretty special to see him. He is an outstanding football player. Collinsville played in our summer league, so we built a relationship there, and when they lost a tournament because of football, we had an opening for them."

The tournament has helped propel the Bearcats into January and February strongly in previous years, and Nix hopes this year’s action will do the same.

"These five games are beneficial," Nix said. "We just need to play. We’ve got three kids we’re comfortable with, and just need to get a couple of spots solidified. Hopefully this tournament will allow us to answer some questions."