For both teams, Tuesday night’s season finale between Sherman and Denison in front of a nearly-full house at Bearcat Gymnasium was their playoff game.
The Bearcats came up with a huge performance on the glass to go out as winners and end a tough year for both sides.
Tre’ Mask and Ty Williams both finished with double-doubles as Sherman pulled away in the second half for a 61-46 win, taking the season series over the Yellow Jackets and finishing in a tie for sixth place with Greenville in District 13-4A.
“I’m happy for those seniors,” Sherman coach Greg Nix said. “We wanted to go out and have the seniors feeling good about themselves. And we wanted those juniors and sophomores to go out with some momentum into next year because … next year’s district is a bear.”
Williams, a junior, finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds and Mask, playing his final game as a Bearcat, added 17 points and 12 boards. Junior J’Lynn Thompson, battling an ailing stomach, managed 10 points in limited playing time.
Bearcat senior DeQuan Howard chipped in with four points and eight rebounds off the bench as Sherman (12-13, 4-10) outrebounded Denison by a 48-38 margin.
“The energy that DeQuan brings, he’s just all over the place, kind of Dennis Rodman-like,” Nix said. “He’s not going to be able to score a lot, he doesn’t have those skills, but he does play super hard.”
Sophomore McShane Wyatt had 12 points, all in the second half, and six rebounds for the Jackets (5-19, 2-12). Carlton Hines added 10 points and a team-high seven boards in his final high school basketball game.
Denison fought back from a nine-point deficit early in the third quarter with an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 29-28 with 4:56 remaining on Wyatt’s steal and layup.
But Wyatt was called for a technical foul for taunting following his basket, and Mask made both free throws. Mask immediately followed with a 3-pointer from the right wing, and although the Jackets closed to within two on free throws by Caleb Ross and Raylen Johnson, the Bearcats ended the period on a 14-2 run to take control, with four baskets by Williams leading the charge.
“We had a little momentum before that technical,” Denison coach Chet Byerly said. “We kind of were able to stop that with free throws. But we still have to respond after that, and we didn’t do a good job after that stopping their momentum and getting it back going on our side.”
Sherman led by as many as 19 points in the final eight minutes before settling for the final margin after Hines’ 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The first half was back-and-forth, with Denison opening up an early lead, including a breakaway dunk by Jaleel Dade that got Jacket fans excited, before Sherman battled back to take a 26-20 halftime lead. The Bearcats shot 9-of-31 in the first half.
“We couldn’t have shot the ball any worse,” Nix said. “We missed layups, putbacks, cutters — just all thumbs in the first half. In the second half, it happened to (Denison). Maybe it was just that end of the floor.”
Sherman will graduate five seniors — Mask, Howard, Kiaron McKinney, Matt Lawson and DeAnthony Bennett. But four starters will return for Nix as the Bearcats jump to the new District 10-5A.
“(Mask) is the one that’s going to be a beast to replace, just because he grabs so many rebounds,” Nix said. “He can do it all. He can play (center) and he can play point guard.”
The Jackets, meanwhile, also will be graduating five seniors — Dade, Hines, Will Parker, Johnathan McInnis and Trace Johnson. But the cupboard is not bare for them either as leading scorer Wyatt will return, as well as fellow sophomores Johnson and Ross and junior Jackson McBride.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do in skill development and just learning to do things like they’re supposed to be done,” Byerly said. “We’ve got to get on that.”