By: Mike Bruu, TSB Staff
Apparently the McKinney North Bulldogs don’t like playing just four quarters anymore. For the second straight game, the Bulldogs saw an extra 8 minutes of basketball. And for the second straight game, they witnessed a heartbreaking defeat.
On Tuesday, Highland Park beat North 48-45.
Then on Friday, Rockwall edged North 71-69.
With 14 seconds remaining in Friday’s second overtime, Rockwall (19-9, 6-5 in District 10-4A) and North were tied at 69 with the Yellow Jackets possessing the ball. After attempting to run a play to get the ball along the baseline for a short jump shot, the Bulldogs appeared to block the shot with no time remaining on the clock that would send the game into a third overtime quarter. But after the referees convened, they ruled that Rockwall had called a timeout with one second remaining in the quarter, giving them one final attempt at a game-winner.
An already fired-up and emotional Bulldog crowd let the refs know of their dismay. After the players came back out of their huddles and the Yellow Jackets aligned in their inbound formation, everyone in the building knew who was going to get the ball. And like clockwork, the ball as lobbed over the head of a North defender into the hands of Rockwall’s big man Elijah Thomas, who more-or-less tapped the ball into the hoop for two points and a Yellow Jacket victory.
A stunned North crowd looked on as there similarly school colored counterparts celebrated a very spirited and physical win on their home gym. Coach Darryll Craft shared the players’ and fans’ frustration after the game, but was proud of the way his boys fought for all 40 minutes.
“For anything positive, I’ll have to look at the tape,” Craft said. “The kids played their butts off, played well, but bottom line is we didn’t win the game due to our mistakes.”
North is 20-10 overall and 7-4 in District 10-4A. A victory Friday would have clinched a playoff berth. Rival McKinney High did its part to help, knocking off Wyle East, which would have made the clinch possible. But the Bulldogs’ chances remain terrific, as they stand three games ahead of Richardson Pearce and Wylie East, who are 4-7, with three games to play. The good news is for McKinney North is that one more win in any of their last three games clinches a birth to the dance — as well as any single loss by by both Pearce and Wylie East.
Led in scoring Friday by Colin Curran, who had 21, and Jola Otubu and Julion Pearre who both had 16, the Bulldogs did a tremendous job of shooting the three-ball and forcing open jumpers off screens. While they struggled at times in getting points in the paint against a very athletic and long Rockwall interior, their ability to open up the Yellow Jackets defense and knock down jumpers kept them in the game.
One of the bright spots from Friday’s game was the clutch shots made by multiple players for McKinney North. With three seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and down by three, Pearre hit a long three with a defender in his face that would send the game to its first overtime. At the end of the first four minutes of OT and the game tied at 59, North was holding for the final shot of the game. While in retrospect the shot may have come to early, North’s Jola Otubu drained another three that would soon be matched by the Yellow Jackets and send the game into its second overtime quarter. With Rockwall up 69-66, Colin Curran sunk a three from way outside that tied things up at 69 with fourteen seconds left.
Craft spoke about the good job of some of his clutch performers, but said the game came down to oppurtunities that were made and weren’t made.
“Colin played really well, Jola played well, but someone’s got to win and someone’s got to lose,” Craft said. “That’s a great game to watch if you’re a fan, but a tough one to swallow if you’re on the losing side and a great one if you’re on the winning one.”
After defeating Rockwall in their building 69-59 on January 10th, Craft said that his team saw a different Yellow Jacket team than a month before. “No, no, (the game plan) is different. Each one is really different, game by game,” he said. When asked what changed this time around, he spoke about some differences in strategy and gamesmanship. “The came out a pressed early, which they’ve never done before. Last time we ran a lot of 1-3-1 against them and this game we played more man-to-man. So it always changes.”
McKinney North will travel to Wylie next Tuesday night. Game time is approximately 7:30 p.m.
Photos by Dan Jarvis