A McKinney basketball team will play in the state tournament Thursday night for the first time since 1998.
“We’re taking our role down here (to Austin) very seriously. We’re very proud to be representing the city as a whole,” said McKinney North girls coach Michael Oldham. “We’re going to go out there and play with a lot of pride for the city as well as all three high schools, because at the end of the day we’re all one community.”
The Lady Bulldogs (28-4) open the Class 4A semifinals against the Northside Brennan Bears (34-1) at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Frank Erwin Center. After taking the Class 4A Region 2 Championship game against The Colony last weekend, the Lady Bulldogs hope to extend their dream season. Canyon (32-4) plays Georgetown (31-6) in the other 4A girls semifinal at 7 p.m.
Brennan has only lost one game this season and carries a stacked bench of some of the best players in Texas. North has shown all season long though that they’re not so easily pushed aside, no matter how big their competition is. And the Brennan players are tall. Like, really tall. The Bears have six players over six feet tall and the rest of the team is close behind. Here’s a look at two of Brennan’s top players:
Tanaeya Boclair, No. 32
At six feet tall, this senior forward guard isn’t even the tallest girl on Brennan’s team. That in itself will prove a challenge for the Lady Bulldogs, whose Amy Kleynhans and Chanterria Jackson are the only two on the team at six feet. Boclair has a staggering 523 points this season, making her 12th in the state’s leading scorers and averages 15 points per game.
Carlie Heineman, No. 11
Although Heineman trails behind Boclair in points with 439, she’s unbelievable from behind the three point line. Also six feet tall, the senior guard leads the state in 3 pointers with 106 made out of the 249 she’s taken this season.
North’s success this season has all been a team effort, but good showings by players of all ages certainly haven’t hindered how far they’ve gotten in playoffs. Here’s a few of the Lady Bulldogs to watch out for:
Stephanie Jackson, No. 15
Although the freshman only became a starter halfway through district play, Jackson has become an integral part of North’s success in playoffs. She led the team with 13 points in the regional championship win against The Colony High and is fourth all season behind the three captains.
Chanterria Jackson, No. 21
Only one of two that can match height with the Bears, Jackson leads North in points with 329 and as a junior still has another year of play after this remarkable season. Jackson is one of the team’s three captains and averages the most points on the team, with around 12 per game.
Amy Kleynhans, No. 24
North’s other six-footer leads her team in three-pointers, with 29 made. Kleynhans is the team’s second senior captain and has played an important role with North’s favored man-to-man defense this season. The power forward will be integral in stopping the Bears’ tall players when on defense.
Mikaehla Connor, No. 33
Connor leads the team on the court and on the bench. The senior captain is the sole member of the team to make it to the state tournament before, which she did with Lovejoy High as a freshman. Connor may have 32 personal fouls this season, but North head coach Michael Oldham thinks this physicality has proven to be imperative in North’s play and will make the difference against Brennan.
Although this will be the Bears’ second consecutive trip to the state tournament, North coach Michael Oldham is convinced in his player’s ability to look past this and come out as strong as they have been all playoffs.
“The way my kids handled themselves with the regional championship gives me confidence that we’re not going to blink. And even if we do at the beginning of the game, it won’t be a very long blink,” Oldham said. “I know the girls are going to come out and do what we do.”
If the rest of the season is any indicator, what the Lady Bulldogs do is win no matter who they’re up against. The odds, and size, may not be in their favor, but if North can keep the physicality that has pushed them forward all season long, Brennan won’t walk away from this game unscathed.
The semifinal winners meet Saturday at 3 p.m. in the 4A girls championship game.