SHERMAN - We may yet have a month until playoffs, but it certainly felt like mid-February in the Sherman Central School gymnasium on Tuesday evening.
"Clymer-Sherman games are always huge," Clymer coach Scott Neckers said, "and this one was a great experience. You don't get this a lot in the A and AA (classes), but in the D's the whole town comes out and cheers. It was a great atmosphere tonight."
Amidst that atmosphere and in front of a capacity crowd - one half pulling for the hosts and the other rooting for the Lady Pirates - it was Clymer's even-scoring attack, and its clutch shooting down the stretch, that won for the visitors their opening Division-4 skirmish, 53-49, in a war with a number of battles still to come.
Dani Reinwald of Clymer drives around Sherman’s Danielle Reed during Tuesday night’s Division 4 girls basketball game. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
After 20 lead changes and 10 ties, this one wasn't decided until the final minutes, and it was Clymer's balanced attack that allowed it to pull away down the stretch, outscoring Sherman 10-2 over the last four minutes of play to turn what had been a two-point deficit, 47-45, into a four-point victory.
Providing the scoring during that crucial spree was Jo-Linda Rhodes, who aggressively drove to the hoop, got to the foul line and hit 4-of-4 free throws, the first pair tying the game at 45; Kayla Gilkinson, who banked a trey off the glass from the right wing to give her squad the lead once and for all with 3:17 remaining; and Carly McAfoose, who connected on a 3-pointer of her own off the inbounds with two minutes to go that pushed Clymer to the winning margin.
"McAfoose and Gilkinson both hit big shots, and after (Sherman) got into a little foul trouble I told Jo-Jo to take it to the hoop," Neckers said. "She came through with some big plays, too, but really everybody stepped up. This was a great team win, and that's what I'm really proud of."
Clymer's five starters all scored at least seven points, and along with Rhodes (12 points, three assists) and McAfoose (11 points, 11 rebounds), Dani Reinwald dropped in 13 points, hauled in a game-high 22 rebounds and blocked five shots.
"Look at the scorebook," Neckers said, "and you'll see it was really nice, even scoring. That's what I love to see."
Sherman, on the other hand, had just one player, Elle Reed (33 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and three steals), reach double figures.
"We never really made our shots," Sherman coach Mel Swanson said. "We had spurts, but they answered back. We've just got to shoot better than that. We don't get a lot at the rim, and when the other team does - and (Clymer) got quite a few right at the hoop either in transition or off other plays - that hurts us."
Despite its deficiency down low in this game, Sherman's largest deficit was just six points, 11-5, during the opening minutes of the first period, and even that didn't last long as Julia Rater delivered a jumper from the block and Reed scored four points on a pair of coast-to-coast layups that gave the Lady Wildcats an 12-11 advantage heading into the second quarter.
The Lady Wildcats, meanwhile, grew their largest lead to five late in the second, and then a modest three points, 42-39, by the end of the third frame. Each time, though, Clymer would rally to tie or regain the advantage.
The Lady Pirates managed the comeback both in the second, when they trailed by five, 26-21, with 3 minutes to go before enjoying 6-0 run to capture the 27-26 lead at the break and, as noted, when it mattered most in the fourth.
"I think the crucial parts of the game was when we had four- or five-point leads and then we'd just let that lead disappear right away," Swanson said. "We had that happen a couple of times tonight, we'd have a lead and we needed to make another play on the offensive end or make a stop on the defensive end, but they always answered back."
The loss was the first suffered by Sherman, which dropped to 10-1 overall and 5-1 in league. Clymer improved to 8-2 and 5-1, and along with Ellicottville the three squads are now locked in a three-way tie for the Division 4 lead.
Clymer and Sherman have scheduled one more regular season matchup on Feb. 11.
Trisket 2 3 7, McAfoose 5 0 11, D. Reinwald 4 5 13, Gilkinson 3 0 7, Rhodes 3 5 12, C. Reinwald 1 0 3. Totals 18 13 53.
Yaw 2 3 7, Rater 2 1 5, Reed 12 5 33, Christmas 2 0 4. Totals 18 9 49.
3-point goals: McAfoose, Gilkinson, C. Reinwald, Reed 4.
Clymer11 16 12 14 - 53
Sherman12 14 11 12 - 49
Jayvees: Sherman won.