AUSTIN — It wasn’t an easy win, but the McKinney North Lady Bulldogs scraped their way to the Class 4A UIL State Basketball Championship Game with a 37-35 semifinal win against Northside Brennan Thursday night at the Frank Erwin Center. It doesn’t get any easier from here for the Lady Bulldogs (29-4) though. While they had a week of practice and preparation leading up to the semifinals game, now North only has a day of rest and what they see on the court to prepare to take on the Canyon High Eagles Saturday afternoon at 3.
Much like North’s undefeated district season this year Canyon (33-4) also went 10-0 in its district. Their rankings match, too, but not in the way North would hope. North is ranked 38th in the state while Canyon is 38th in the nation, 9th in the state. The statistics are against them, but this isn’t the first time the Lady Bulldogs have gone into a game the underdog.
No. 23, Angel Hayden
North had to watch out for Brennan’s height in the semifinals, but they Lady Bulldogs have to change things up when dealing with Canyon’s Hayden. At 5 feet and 4 inches she’s literally far from her opponents, but her numbers say that she makes the most of her speed and ability to get to the net. Hayden led her team with 18 points against defending champs Georgetown Thursday night, nine of which were the sole points made by her team in the 3rd quarter.
No. 42, Madison Parker
If North’s Mikaehla Connor’s experience going to state during her freshman season has helped her lead the Lady Bulldogs this year, then Parker is likely to do the same for Canyon. Parker is the only remaining player from Canyon’s 2011 state championship team and judging how they demolished last year’s winner, North doesn’t have an easy game ahead. The 5-foot-11-inch senior had 12 points and seven rebounds in her semifinal game Thursday night.
Head Coach Joe Lombard
Lombard may not literally be on the court facing off against the girls, but his reputation alone casts a shadow over the court on the University of Texas campus. Lombard has been to the state tournament 15 times in his career and the Canyon team hasn’t lost since the finals in 1999. Much like most of his team, this is North head coach Michael Oldham’s first trip to the tournament, and it’s expected Lombard will have a few tricks up his sleeve come game time Saturday.
No. 33, Mikaehla Connor
Connor led her fellow Lady Bulldogs to the state tournament and she kept them in it Thursday night against Brennan. Throughout the game, Connor beat the buzzer, but it was a shot with three-seconds left that snagged the win and a steal with one-second on the clock that secured it. While overall North’s defense did everything they needed to against Brennan’s star players, the team was 14 for 43 on field goals and two for 16 on 3-point attempts.
No. 21, Chanterria Jackson and No. 15, Stephanie Jackson
North’s usually strong Chanterria only had four points all game and freshman Stephanie fell flat with five points after leading the team with 13 in the Regional Championship against The Colony. Both will have to step it up against Canyon Saturday, but perhaps with one game of experience in The University of Texas’ “The Drum” they can refocus their nerves and get back to the shooting game they’ve had all season.
Coming into the state tournament, North was the wild card, Georgetown was last year’s championship team, Brennan was there for the second year in a row and Canyon’s program and coach were well versed in trips to the tournament. Oldham and his players have had their work cut out of for them from day one, but they’ve made it this far and there’s no backing down now.