No relief for SSHS girls vs. Sherman
Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor

January 24, 2004 -- SHERMAN -- After spending a week with her daughter in the hospital, Sulphur Springs coach Carin Hoffman was feeling ill herself before the Lady Cats' game with Sherman Friday.

She wasn't feeling any better afterwards.

Sherman used a strong second-quarter push from 6-foot, 4-inch center Jana Mustard to edge the Lady Cats, 50-47, and put Sulphur Springs (2-3 in District 11-4A, 12-13 overall) in almost a must-win situation for the remaining five games.

With Greenville (4-1) beating Paris (0-5), 76-34, and McKinney North (3-2) upsetting Denison (3-2), 52-48, the Lady Cats are in fifth place in district.

"Our backs are pretty much against the wall," said Coach Hoffman. "We've probably got to win all of the rest of our games. Probably. We'll have to see what happens along the way."

Sulphur Springs is in the precarious position because they couldn't find an answer for Mustard in the second period as she bucketed 11 of her team's 17 points in the period and finished with 15 points -- all in the first half -- and 11 rebounds.

In the second half, the defensive rotation of 5-9 Crystal Smitherman, 5-6 Stephanie Kethley and 5-10 Bridgette Nash held her to 0-for-3 shooting.

"We worked hard and adjusted well in the second half. We outscored them in the second half," Hoffman said. "We just came out in the first half and weren't rebounding and defending the post very well.

"In the second half, I thought they played great defense. They played their tails off in the second half. We outscored them, we held them. The first half hurt us."

It was in the second half that the Lady Cats tried to recover from a 30-23 halftime deficit. They played excellent defense, holding Sherman to just five points in the third quarter on 2-of-12 shooting from the field.

But, the Lady Cats themselves scored just four points in the period on an 18-foot jumper by Terra Jackson at the 7:50 mark and on a pair of Kethley free throws at 4:33. Kethley, giving up almost a foot inside to Mustard, had a strong game with nine points including 5-of-6 from the free throw line, and four rebounds. Jackson finished with six points and a pair of steals.

The Lady Cats were down by eight points, 35-27, entering the fourth period but quickly drew to within two on a pair of Smitherman turn-around jumpers over Mustard, free throws from Amber Porter and Kethley, a pull-up jumper from Porter and a long two-pointer from Cristie Dixon.

After Sherman's Nicole Sciortino extended the lead to 41-37, Sulphur Springs had the ball, but a bench player was hit with a technical foul with 4:18 to play. Denison's Keisha Ewing hit both free throws to put the Lady Bearcats up by six points and Sulphur Springs could get no closer than 46-44 after that, on Brandi Crouch's 3-pointer with 1:13 to play.

Sherman was able to hold on to the lead by making 10-of-12 free throws in the final period after hitting just 4-of-11 in the first three periods.

Crouch had another solid game with 11 points, four rebounds, six steals and seven assists. Porter finished with 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

Neither team shot especially well, each hitting 35 percent from the field. The Lady Cats were 18-of-52 while Sherman was 17-of-48.

Sherman made 14-of-23 free throws, while SSHS went to the line just 13 times, making seven.

"The officials let us play. It was physical. We like that style," Hoffman said. "But, we're missing a lot of lay-ups still and free throws. We've got to have those, especially in district."

Smitherman, who had four points and four rebounds, said the physical play against Sherman, who had three players taller than anyone on the SSHS team, was something they were able to adjust to in the second half.

"It was very physical," she said. "Going up against a big, tall girl like that is really tough, but you've got to pull through. I thought we played a good second half.

"We had to buckle down because she was the one scoring half their points."

Hoffman and the team hopes their routine can settle back to normal this week after her 2-year-old daughter came home Friday from a Dallas hospital.

"This has been a tough week for them. I haven't been at practice all week and we've two of our toughest games," she said. "It's been as emotional for them as it has been for me. They're not used to being out of routine."

The Lady Cats have a favorable second-half schedule with three of their five games at home. Their only two road games are against winless Paris (on Tuesday) and at Denison, who Sulphur Springs beat in the first round.

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