By: Mike Bruu, TSB Staff
GARLAND – In a game of two evenly matched basketball teams, the winner is generally the group that does the little things right and makes big shots when it’s time to step up.
For the McKinney North Lady Bulldogs, they made the big free throws down the stretch Friday night, pulling off another huge playoff victory against a scrappy Dallas Bryan Adams Lady Cougars by the score of 48-41 in an Area Round game at Garland Naaman Forest High School.
North will next play district rival Highland Park in the Regional Quarterfinal round set for next Monday or Tuesday. HP beat Dallas Carter 49-33 in the Area Round. The Lady Scots are a perfect 3-0 versus the Lady Bulldogs on the season. Date, time, and location will be determined soon.
On Friday, after a back-and-forth first three quarters, North came out firing to start the fourth, topped off by a long 3-pointer from junior Alexis Mason. With 4:32 left in the game Bryan Adams called a timeout down 40-30. As the Lady Bulldogs’ crowd, fully equipped with its cheerleading squad and the drum line, began to make some serious noise, it appeared as though North may be able to run away with the game in the end.
Whatever was said in the Lady Cougars huddle must have been pretty good, because for the next minute and thirty-five seconds Bryan Adams stormed back with a 7-0 run to trim the North lead down to just three.
With 2:57 left to go in the game, the time had come for the Lady Bulldogs to overcome an obstacle they had been defeated by all night: free-throws.
Shooting 53 percent at the line up to that point, North had to start making free throws down the stretch when Bryan Adams began playing to foul game with a little over a minute left. With the score now 42-41 following a Lady Cougar layup, sophomore Mikaehla Connor went to the line for a chance to extend the lead. Connor, who finished with 12 points in the game, made one of two shots.
But after another missed opportunity for Bryan Adams to tie the game, Alexis Mason was fouled and sent to the line with 39 seconds left. Mason made just one of two free throws but succeeded in extending the North lead to three. However, Bryan Adams would turn the ball over without a shot attempt and give Mason another chance at two shots from the line. Mason, who led all scorers with 14 points, would make both free throws to extend the lead to 46-41, and with the addition of two more free throws from sophomore Amy Kleynhans, the Lady Bulldogs put the game away for good.
In the last 2:57 of the game North made 6 of 8 free throws, finishing with a 14-for-23 mark on the evening.
Michael Oldham, head coach of the Lady Bulldogs, spoke after the game about how important this victory was to continuing the winning tradition of the North girls basketball program.
“We’ve had a tradition of making the playoffs,” Oldham said. “We made the regional final a couple years ago and last year got beat out in the first round, so to get this second round win for us is big for the program to try and keep the tradition going.”
Oldham also spoke about his team’s ability to get into the paint and get points around the rim. In fact, of North’s 48 points on the night, 22 of them came inside the painted area.
“The combination of our size and also I didn’t think they had a lot of help-side D, so we planned on attacking the paint all night long,” Oldham said.
For Oldham this statistic was evidence of a successful game plan put in during the week, but also recognized the missed opportunities that could have made this a much more relaxing win. “We just didn’t finish around the rim like we should have,” he said. “If we had finished around the rim it would have been a completely different game.”
If the McKinney North Lady Bulldogs, who have improved their record to 21-12 on the season, can continue to score in the paint and improve from the free throw stripe, you won’t find a tougher group of girls to try and knock out in the playoffs.
Photos by Dan Jarvis, TSB Contibutor