By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor
SACHSE – Some nights you have it, and some nights you just don’t.
For the state’s No.8-ranked McKinney North Lady Bulldogs, Friday night proved to be the latter of the two after a 47-41 loss to Red Oak in the 4A Region II Area round saw their season come to an abrupt end.
“We didn’t rebound well, we didn’t shoot free throws well, and didn’t shoot well from the perimeter,” said North head coach Michael Oldham after the game. “ That is a recipe for disaster.”
McKinney North ended its season with a 30-4 record and suffered its first loss since Nov. 29 to Frisco Liberty. Despite sweeping the District 13-4A schedule and winning 23 consecutive games entering Friday night, Oldham said the season would more or less be remembered for the early playoff departure.
“There is a lot of good but it is just a shame it gets overshadowed by one bad night,” said Oldham. “That is what the playoffs are though.”
Mikaehla Connor got the Lady Bulldogs’ first points of the night on an easy layup, giving her team a 2-0 lead a minute into the game. After Archie Randolph hit a three-pointer to put the Lady Hawks up 3-2, Red Oak would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game.
Despite a late three-pointer from Jocelyn Scott with two seconds remaining in the quarter, North trailed 13-11. In the second quarter Red Oak continued feeding the ball inside to Chelsea Warren and Ciera Johnson, who combined to score 12 of the Lady Hawks 25 first half points.
After averaging nearly 60 points per game during district play, the Lady Bulldogs could only must six second-quarter points and went into the locker room trailing 25-17.
“We missed shots that we usually make and we couldn’t get the rebound to get the transition started,” said Oldham.
The third quarter saw little improvement for the Lady Bulldogs, as Diamond Lockhart scored seven of her game-high 15 points in the frame to extend the Red Oak lead to 11 points entering the fourth.
In the fourth quarter North began to full-court press the Lady Hawks, forcing nine of the team’s 28 turnovers in the final frame. Unfortunately for North, missed layups and free throws cost the team a chance to overcome the deficit. The Lady Bulldogs made just seven-of-12 free throw attempts in the fourth, and shot 55% from the line in the game. Red Oak finished 10-of-12 from the charity stripe.
North made it interesting in the final minutes of the game after storming out to a 10-2 run in the fourth quarter to make it 39-36 with four minutes remaining. With most of the blue and orange cheering section on its feet and the momentum leaning towards the Lady Bulldogs, it appeared as though North might pull off the comeback after all.
After the teams traded layups, Lockhart hit two free throws to extend the Red Oak lead to 43-38. With a little more than two minutes remaining, senior Alexis Mason hit a short jumper in the paint to cut the lead to three points. Despite forcing another steal on the inbounds press, Mason immediately turned to ball back over to the Lady Hawks with 1:50 remaining in the game.
Red Oak would hold the ball for nearly 50 seconds, taking two timeouts during that time to adjust to the North press. While the Lady Bulldogs needed a defensive stop, Johnson was able to get open in the paint and make an easy lay-up to make it 45-40. On the following North possession, Mason missed her three-point attempt and Red Oak was able to secure the rebound and get out in transition, finding Warren open down court for an easy lay-up to make it a seven-point Lady Hawks lead with 32 seconds remaining.
That would prove to be the dagger for Oldham and the Lady Bulldogs, as the stunned North faithful watched the final seconds tick down on the disappointing end to what was an incredible year for the program.
“It’s definitely a disappointment,” said Oldham. “We lost a round earlier than we did last year, so obviously it is disappointing. Five games a year a team shows up and they are not going to get beat no matter what happens, five games a year you are going to show up and no matter what you do you are going to lose, and the other 20 games of the year is your team. Tonight is one of those five that we weren’t going to win no matter what showed up.”
Mason had a team-high 14 points for North while Chanterria Jackson finished with 13 points for the Lady Bulldogs.
Oldham credited Red Oak’s length and size down in the paint after forcing several second chance baskets off offensive rebounds, and said the Lady Hawks did a good job off getting his team out of their rhythm offensively.
“They did things to disrupt us. I am not going to take anything away from them. They played great and shot the ball well.”
For a team that just had their state championship dreams escape them, Oldham said he doesn’t want the loss to derail the success the program has built this season.
“I am going to tell them that failure is never fatal, and that we are going to be back next year,” said Oldham. “I am just disappointed for our seniors because they had their hearts set on going to Austin.”
Three seniors played their final game in a North jersey on Friday night, including Alexis Mason. Mason set several school records in her time at McKinney North and was regarded as one of the top players in the area.
“She’s meant everything for us,” said Oldham. “It is going to be like graduating a daughter, and going into that locker room right now is going to be like comforting a daughter who just lost her boyfriend or something. It is never an easy night.”
Red Oak will face Arlington Seguin in the regional quarterfinals next week.
Photos submitted by Kellie Anfosso