In a wild and crazy game with lots of long cold streaks on both sides, a sophomore guard came up huge for Sherman in the final seconds on Saturday night.
As Mount Pleasant worked for the game-winning shot, Banner Sullivan intercepted a pass and hit the go-ahead free throw with 6.3 seconds left as the Bearcats won the Sherman Holiday Invitational for only the second time in 11 tries, 50-49.
How streaky was Saturday’s final?
The Bearcats (8-5) were just 6-of-25 from the field in the first half as they trailed by 12 points at the half. Then they outscored Mount Pleasant by a 21-1 margin in the third quarter and held the Tigers without a bucket until the 5:35 mark of the fourth.
“That’s the first time this year I saw a resemblance to last year’s team,” Sherman head coach Greg Nix said. “When we went through those stretches last year where we couldn’t score, we could always play defense.
“Tonight, you could tell it was bothering the kids that we couldn’t get them to fall. We came back, played defense in the third quarter and rebounded better, and that was key.”
Sherman led by as much as 12 points before Daundra Fields, who led Mount Pleasant with 17 points, got a three-point play to spark the Tigers, and they battled back.
Fields hit a 3-pointer from the left corner, then after a Sherman turnover, Dexter Roberson got an inside basket to cut the margin to two.
After Sullivan made a free throw with 1:11 to go, Mount Pleasant’s Keenan Brown nailed a 3 from the top of the key, tying the game at 49.
Then Tiger Andrew Flanagan came up with a steal, and the Tigers were able to hold for a last shot — until a Mount Pleasant player threw the ball right to Sullivan, who was immediately fouled.
Sullivan missed the front end of a two-shot opportunity, but made the all-important second one to give Sherman the lead.
The Bearcats forced Flanagan into a 30-foot heave at the buzzer that hit the rim and fell away, giving the tournament crown to the Cats.
Ty Williams led Sherman with 15 points and seven rebounds, while Tre’ Mask finished with 14 points, eight boards and five steals. J’Lynn Thompson, who had 34 earlier in the day in the semifinals, settled for an 11-point outing.
“We’re looking for that third guy,” Nix said. “Everyone in the district knows about J’Lynn and Tre’, but Banner and Ty are both becoming viable options. Hitting open shots, moving the basketball, helping with the ballhandling. Both of them are getting better defensively.”
The Bearcats could hardly buy a bucket in the first half as Mount Pleasant (4-9) scored the first eight points and led 17-6 after one quarter, but Sherman was able to stay afloat with better defense and Mask’s seven points to keep it within 27-15 at the break.
The same lid that seemed to be on the goal for Sherman in the first half stayed on for the Tigers in the third period, and Mount Pleasant was 0-for-8 from the floor as the Bearcats zoomed into the lead.
Williams had seven points and Mask five, and Sullivan and Thompson each hit 3-pointers at the end of the quarter to give the Cats a 36-28 advantage.
“There were two or three trips in a row where Ty got a rebound and a putback, or a rebound and a foul,” Nix said. “Everybody started feeding off that energy.”
The Bearcats advanced to the finals earlier on Saturday with a 78-62 win over a strong McKinney North junior varsity squad behind Thompson’s 34 points.
Mask had a double-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds and six steals, Sullivan also scored 14 points, and Williams finished with 10 points and seven boards.
The Bearcats spotted North a 7-0 lead before Mask heated up with a pair of 3-pointers to lead Sherman back, and Thompson and Sullivan shouldered the load in the second period with nine and eight points respectively as Sherman led at the half, 37-30.
The Bulldogs stayed in sight by raining seven 3-point baskets in the second half, but Thompson took over the game with 13 of his points in the third quarter and North never got closer than 10 points in the final eight minutes.
“I think we’re starting to get a little bit better conditioning,” Nix said. “We’re going to overcome those seven or eight games we canceled. It’s not so much missing those games, it’s missing being on the floor for eight or nine days.”