Friday , 25 May 2018

Connor’s Clutch Play Leads North Girls Past Brennan Into State Title Game

AUSTIN — This basketball game was won in its final seconds. Not necessarily just in the final seconds of the game as a whole, although it most certainly was, but in the final seconds of every quarter. The McKinney North Lady Bulldogs defeated top-ranked Northside Brennan Thursday evening in a nail biting 37-35 game in the 4A UIL State Semifinals. It’s a common superstition that the first team to score is the team that walks away with the win, but the Lady Bulldogs showcased just how important it is to score last.

Going into the game North knew it had to do something to stop Brennan’s top players, Tanaeya Boclair and Carlie Heineman. Boclair, who usually averages 15 points a game and is the 12th leading scorer in the state, was kenneled by North and only scored 6 points while Heineman, the state’s leading 3-point shooter, only managed to make one from outside the line. Even though North successfully shut down the Bears’ top players the score was too close for comfort nearly all game, with North’s biggest lead only three points all night.

“The number one team in the state is going to have more than two options, we knew that going into this,” North head coach Michael Oldham. “But we shut them down a little better than they shut us down tonight, and that’s what makes the difference.”

The final seconds of each quarter saw North getting crucial points, nearly all of which were from senior Mikaehla Connor. The shining star on the court, Connor led both teams in scoring with 18 points, but more importantly she ended each quarter with the energy and confidence her team needed.

“That’s been our game plan the whole season. We focus on their key players and everyone has to do their role, and everyone did today, obviously,” Connor said. “I’m so proud of my team, we’re making history. We’re going to the state championship.”

McKinney’s first basketball team in 16 years to reach the state semifinals will have a  chance to win it all Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Frank Erwin Center. North (29-4) will play Canyon High (33-4) for that honor. Canyon beat defending state champion Georgetown 41-22 in the other 4A semifinal Thursday.

But getting to Saturday’s game was the kind of nail-biting moment that players, coaches and fans will never forget. Although 8 minutes were played each quarter, it really came down to the last seconds that defined this game. The last point of the first quarter came from a free throw from Connor. She shook her team’s six minute dry spell in the second with a three pointer and later with a layup with six-seconds left. At the end of the third, the rebound from her two successful free throws resulted in North’s biggest lead of the game. And finally with 3.2 seconds left in the fourth, Connor made a miracle shot and clenched the win for her team.

Connor solidified the win for her team with little time left, but Brennan wasn’t willing to give up and made those 3.2 seconds last as long as possible. The fourth quarter’s close score caused numerous timeouts and it wasn’t until Connor stole Brennan’s last inbound attempt that the buzzer finally sounded. Fittingly, Connor ended the game offensively and defensively, a trait that Coach Oldham knew when he put all trust in her at the end.

“We put it on her back all year long, I’ve put it on her back for three years and I wasn’t going to stop tonight,” Oldham said. “She has a heart that can’t be measured. When it’s time to get it done, she’s going to get it done.”

Despite the low scoring game and struggle from both teams’ shooting, this was one viewers couldn’t tear their eyes away from. This was playoff basketball at its most gut wrenching, and all those in attendance at the University of Texas’ Frank Erwin Center were as tense as the players on the court. Probably more.

Photos by Jonathan Garza

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