Five years ago, Valerie Little took over as head basketball coach for the McKinney North Lady Bulldogs. During her stint as coach of the varsity team, she led North to its first-ever playoff appearance in 2010 and followed up with another postseason run in 2011. Last spring, Little accepted the position as Title IX coordinator of the McKinney ISD athletic department and she left behind big shoes to fill for the next girls basketball coach.
After many subpar seasons of girls basketball, the McKinney North program was able to build a solid foundation in the past two years and was not looking to let all that hard work be forgotten. Luckily, the Lady Dawgs were able to land a head coach that understands the importance of building on tradition.
“I was fortunate enough to be here the day that coach Little started on this building project five years ago, so North Women’s basketball is very close to my heart,” new coach Michael Oldham said.
At age 42, Oldham has a wealth of basketball experience that includes five years as head coach of the girls program at Wylie, which was 12-44 in the two seasons prior to him taking over the reigns. With Oldham on the bench, the Lady Pirates were able to win their first district title in 21 years. In his first year with the Lady Bulldogs, the former McKinney North junior varsity head coach hopes to lead North to its first district championship in school history.
“I think we have a shot at it,” he said. “Rockwall returns everybody but we feel confident that we match up with them well. Our goal is to win district and if you ask the girls they will tell you that their goal is to go to state.”
“That’s what they practice for and that’s what they play for.”
Oldham’s head coaching career at North got off to a fantastic start in last Tuesday’s season opener when his girls crushed Frisco High by a final score of 60-15. The Lady Dawgs were led in scoring by Alexis Mason, who finished with 20 points, and Mikaehla Connor and Amy Kleynhans, who each finished with 12 points.
“We played real well and executed real well but it was hard to tell where we were at because they’re not real strong this year,” Oldham said.
In the Lady Bulldogs next game, they hosted the No. 15 team in the nation – Irving MacArthur – and were handed their first loss, 68-36. MacArthur was led in scoring by the No. 3 girls basketball player in the country, Alexis Jones, who finished with 19 points, followed by her teammate Ayriel Anderson, who added 18.
“Our goal was to stay as close as we could as long as we could,” Oldham said. “We were down seven going into the fourth so we were in the best shape any team has been with them in quite a while.”
North, meanwhile, was once again led in scoring by Mason, who totaled 12 points.
“She can score but she’s very willing to pass the ball,” Oldham said.
Even though the Lady Dawgs kept the score close for three quarters of play, they went cold in the fourth quarter and were outscored 20-0 before scoring their first basket of the quarter.
McKinney North rebounded from last Friday’s loss with a home victory over Newman Smith by a final score of 52-32. After the victory, Oldham stressed the importance of his girls being able to rebound with a win and improve to 2-1 on the year.
“It was important to bounce back and I thought we came out strong tonight,” he said.
The Lady Bulldogs were led by Mason’s 17 points on offense and, in the fourth quarter, were able to put the clamps on Newman Smith and hold the Lady Trojans to just one point in the final eight minutes.
“Our defensive goal is to hold teams under 40 [points],” Oldham said.
On Thursday, the Lady Dawgs will enter the Highland Park Scott Classic tournament where, according to Oldham, they will receive a much-needed tune-up against some very quality opponents.
“I think we’re gelling really nice right now but I want to see us get a little shaper,” he said. “We’ve got three or four girls that are playing this year that were on the JV last year. By the end of this weekend, we’ll be a lot sharper than we have been.”
-Joe Arriola, TownSquareBuzz.com
Check out the video at the bottom of the screen for higlights of McKinney North girls basketball 2010-2011 season.