In the early going it felt like a typical game between the Lady Yellow Jackets and the Lady Bearcats. Even though Denison had held the upper hand the previous three seasons, those victories against Sherman did not come easily.


After the first quarter Denison was ahead by just a point despite taking 19 shots to Sherman’s 11 and the smell of an upset perhaps starting brewing.


As the teams headed to the locker room at half-time, the Lady Jackets put a stop to that kind of thinking.


“Our shot selection was poor in the first quarter. They were knocking down shots in their gym,” Denison head coach Rod Been said. “We settled in and starting getting stops. Once we got a little more disciplined defensively, things shifted.”


Denison held Sherman to just a pair of free throws during that stretch to open up a double-digit margin that was never threatened over the final two quarters of the Lady Jackets’ 58-39 victory to close out the first half of District 5-5A play at Bearcat Gymnasium on Friday night.


“The second quarter really got away from us,” Sherman head coach David Upton said. “It looked like we got in a hurry. You can’t build a flow, make shots, get anything going offensively.”


Olivia Marr had 19 points and nine rebounds, Zya Nugent totaled 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals, Ikia Lacy finished with nine points and six rebounds and Taryn Gaines grabbed seven rebounds for Denison (23-4, 6-0), which has won nine of its last 10 games and can clinch a playoff spot on Friday, when it has the district bye, as long as it beats Wichita Falls at home on Tuesday.


“No complaints for us. We were able to get out of here with a win,” said Been, whose team had to survive a last-second shot in its previous trip south. “We’ll take it. It’s the end of the first half and we’re undefeated, in first place.”


Madison Kehrer scored 15 points while Jaylen Edmonson added seven points for Sherman (7-18, 1-5), which is tied with Rider and Wichita Falls for fifth place and two games back of Denton Braswell for the district’s final playoff spot as the second half starts. The Lady Bearcats play at Rider on Tuesday.


Sherman held a 12-6 lead late in the first quarter as Denison had its opportunities to score but was unable to finish.


“I wanted to see that effort and how they could play in this environment. We came out very well,” Upton said. “He’s upset they were missing their shots. I’m upset they had second-chance opportunities.”


The Lady Jackets, which outrebounded Sherman 40-19, started heating up at the close of the quarter and Maddi Nixon banked in a three from the right wing with four seconds left to put Denison in front by a point.


Then Sherman couldn’t hit from the floor — 0-of-6 — to go with eight turnovers and the Lady Jackets had a 10-point lead by the middle of the second quarter on a turnaround jumper by Nugent.


Nixon hit a corner three and Denison went into the break up 29-14 after the Lady Bearcats had only free throws by Kehrer and Libby Ticknor during the frame.


“We came out of the locker room and the spirits were still high,” Upton said. “They gave good effort. The kids played hard.”


Sherman played Denison nearly even for the final two quarters but the damage had been done. Edmonson hit a three-pointer to pull the Lady Bearcats within 35-23 and then Lacy, Nugent and Marr all converted underneath to push Denison’s lead back to 18 points.


Marr shouldered the load by nearly splitting her production — nine points in the first half and 10 after the break — including some long three-pointers to maintain the lead near 20 points.


“She had a nice game for us. Her range is really out there,” Been said. “She did a good job of stretching them out and then she has the ability yo get by people when they go out there after her.”


Kehrer and Marr traded three-pointers in the middle of the fourth quarter before Ticknor and Nugent got into a heated exchange on a jump ball and both were ejected with 2:51 remaining.


Marr connected on a three-pointer immediately and the game ended without further incident.