By: Mike Bruu, TSB Staff
FRISCO – There are tough ways to lose a game, and then there are tough ways to lose a game.
Unfortunately for the McKinney North girls basketball team, it fell one rebound short of moving on to the fourth round of the UIL State Playoffs in a 40-39 defeat Tuesday night in the hands of the Lady Scots of Highland Park.
After a huge turnover by the Lady Scots with four seconds remaining in their Regional Quarterfinal game at Frisco Wakeland, North looked as though it would finally get its first victory in four tries this season against district rival Highland Park. Coming out of a timeout, North set up an inbounds play from the Lady Scots baseline when sophomore Mikaehla Connor was called for a charge by the sideline referee, giving the Lady Scots one final chance at a shot to the basket.
After a pair of timeouts by Highland Park and an additional one by North, the final three seconds were ready to be played out. A capacity crowd inside Frisco Wakeland High School was on its feet with heavy dose of anxiousness.
Facing heavy pressure from the Lady Bulldogs, Highland Park threw the ball in bounds near the baseline where Sydney McDaniel threw up a decent look that was well off the basket. Sadly for McKinney North the ball landed right in the hands of the Lady Scots’ Kaitlyn Read, who heaved the ball towards the hoop just as the buzzer went off, watching it bounce off the glass and in the basket for two points and the win for HP.
As the Highland Park students and fans stormed the court to mob the players in celebration, a stunned Lady Bulldog squad stood in disbelief at the three seconds that had just transpired before them. Some North parents called for a review and believed that Read still had the ball in her hands when the buzzer went off, but in high school sports there are no reviews like in college or the NBA.
After a very long discussion with his players, North coach Michael Oldham acknowledged the difficulties in overcoming this Highland Park squad all season long and said lack of execution down the stretch cost them in the end.
“We lost to them four times and every time we’ve lost to them [because] of one or two possessions and that’s just the exact same thing. We didn’t do our job at the very end. We didn’t come up with the loose balls at the end like we needed to. That’s what happens.”
When players began filing out of the locker room, many found the comfort in the arms of their parents or loved ones who had stuck around well after the game was over to congratulate them on a fantastic season. Many players were very emotional while talking to their parents, trying to come to grips that there wouldn’t be another game until next October.
In the end, Connor finished with a game-high 17 points for North while junior Alexis Mason finished with 13 points. Only two other Lady Bulldogs were recorded on the score sheet Tuesday night, where freshman Chanterria Jackson chalked up 6 points and sophomore Danielle Coleman recorded 3 points of her own.
For the Lady Bulldogs offensively in the first half, some early threes by Mason and Coleman began a parade of three-point attempts that definitely wasn’t what Coach Michael Oldham was looking for. But still, North led 22-19 at halftime. And things changed in the second half after some key strategic adjustments and some more aggression down low.
“I think the loudness of the game and not being able to hear the play call led to some weak threes. We hit a couple early so naturally you fall in love with it,” Oldham said about the first 16 minutes of the game. “We talked at halftime about we needed to work the ball into the paint and the strategy worked in the second half. It got us to the free throw line at the end, so everything but the end worked out like we needed it to.”
While the pain is still very fresh for every member of the Lady Bulldog program, Oldham believes the future is bright for his girls and even has his countdown started until next season tips off.
“With our young group going 21-13 and playing the schedule we played I think our future is bright and looking forward to [next season]. We’ve got nine kids coming back with experience and all five starters.
“I’m already looking forward to October 20th of next year.”