Pressure defense, strong guard play and conditioning are three factors that should take Sherman’s girls a long way this season.
Despite a short bench and a distinct size disadvantage, the Lady Bearcats’ superior quickness made life tough for visiting Paris North Lamar as Sherman coasted to an easy 57-30 non-district win on Monday night at Bearcat Gymnasium.
“Our defense was key to this game,” said junior guard Jayzhia Softly, who finished with a game-high 22 points. “We were needing to work on it, so that’s what we executed.”
Backcourt mate Sa’Liesha Hunter added 16 points and seven rebounds, and senior Ashley Crockett added six points and seven steals as Sherman (6-2) recorded 19 steals as a team.
“They were all bigger than us and we’re very small, but from day one I saw my girls were quick,” first-year head coach Beth Tallant said. “We’re lightning-fast, and we try to use that to play 94 feet for 32 minutes.”
The Lady Cats only had seven varsity players available, but that created an opportunity for junior Brelyn Keys and sophomore Emily Kirkpatrick to log extensive minutes. Keys had five points, four steals and a team-high eight boards, and Kirkpatrick added four points and three rebounds off the bench.
Kara Erickson finished with 14 points and nine rebounds for the Pantherettes (2-5), who were held to 11-of-39 shooting from the floor.
The Lady Cats got off to a cold start offensively, making just 3-of-14 in the first eight minutes as they struggled to an 8-4 lead. But Keys’ long jumper early in the second period sparked a 10-1 Sherman run to open up a double-digit advantage.
“We came out super fired-up, almost too fired-up,” Tallant said. “But I told them it’s better to do that because we may be struggling on the offensive end, but defensively is where we really picked it up. That was the difference in the first half, because we wouldn’t have had as many scoring opportunities if we weren’t getting the ball back.”
After taking a 26-11 halftime lead, the Lady Cats turned on the jets and pulled away with a 20-4 third quarter, led by Hunter, who had only two free throws in the first half. Hunter made a pair of 3-pointers and added a layup off a Softly steal to make it 46-15 at the end of three, and at that point, Tallant called off the press.
The Lady Cats had as much as a 33-point lead early in the fourth before setting for a 27-point final margin as they slowed things down.
“We just have to learn how to work in our halfcourt offense,” Softly said. “We’re a fast team and we’re not used to playing at a slow pace.”
Sherman’s only losses this season have been to Class 5A schools in the Allen tournament, 10-point losses each to Allen and Sachse.
More tough tournament play is in the offing for the Lady Cats in the McKinney ISD tournament starting on Thursday, with games against Coppell and Carrollton Newman Smith on Thursday and Plano West on Friday afternoon.
The schedule ahead is a grueling one, but Tallant has prepared her team with lots and lots of conditioning.
“They ran cross country in the preseason, and we start out practice with a 94-second run to represent 94 feet, then we end practice with a 32-second run to represent 32 minutes,” Tallant said. “Conditioning is a huge factor. If your kids get tired, they lose focus mentally, and nothing works after that.”