CARROLLTON — Monday evening had all the makings of a McKinney High home game. The stands were filled with blue and yellow shirts, face painted fans roared loudly, and a huge Lion logo looked down upon the court. Unfortunately, it wasn’t McKinney’s Lion and there was no home court advantage for the Lionettes basketball team at R.L. Turner High School. The Carrollton school may be residence to one of the many Lions mascots throughout North Texas, but the extra “Go Lions” murals strewn about the gym couldn’t help the Lionettes stop Dallas Skyline. The Lionettes fell flat in their bi-district playoff game and lost 54-38 after a 6-4 record throughout their district season.
It’s not that the intensity wasn’t there, because it was. On the court, on the bench and in the stands players, coaches and fans fought until the final seconds. Unfortunately, while intensity was everywhere, points were not, especially on the Lionettes’ side of the scoreboard. In its simplest terms the game came down to fundamentals: Skyline scored, McKinney didn’t.
“[Skyline is] phenomenally athletic and we had a difficult time trying to tag all of them on the defensive end and block them out,” McKinney head coach Debbie Harris said. “I’m not gonna take anything away from them, they’re a great ballclub.”
Seniors Mariah Mitchell and Jazsmin Nelson led McKinney’s intensity on the offensive end, but sloppy turnovers and slacking defense plagued the team’s second half. Mitchell grabbed every rebound she could, drove to the net as often as possible and led the team with 16 points. Mitchell’s intensity didn’t stop, even as the time ticked down to the final moments of her high school basketball career.
“My teammates and my coaches kept me driving forward. We tried to keep it together but it didn’t work out that way,” Mitchell said. “But we don’t quit. We never quit.”
This mentality, along with ideals of family on and off the court, is what the Lionettes’ program is all about. More so than championships, this team focused on their growth together more than the depth of their playoff bracket. Even with seven seniors set to graduate and leave their team behind, they leave it in safe hands.
“We’ve come a long way. We’ve all made an impact on this program and it’s great for our coaches to see the same thing we do,” Mitchell said. “We’ll have four returning juniors next year and I’m sure they’ll step up and fill our shoes.”
Mitchell will play for the University of Arkansas as a Razorback in the Fall, but she’ll never forget the people in her life “who have changed it for the better.” Many of whom she shared a locker room with for four years.
“Our seniors have laid the foundation in our program. The number one thing for us is that they’re quality people and along with that comes hard work,” Coach Harris said. “I think that our underclassman have learned that from our seniors. As a coach you can’t ask for anything more. I have the utmost respect for these kids, these seniors.”
The loss was a tough one, but the Lionettes held their heads high as they exited the locker room. They may not have ended their season with a home game, but for a team like these young women, home isn’t just where the heart is, it’s where your family is. As their motto goes: “Family Always, Team First.” Luckily for the Lionettes, family and team are one and the same.