This hasn’t been an easy season for the McKinney North Lady Bulldogs. With only three returning seniors North was a young team going against some of the toughest teams in the district. Yet miraculously it walked away undefeated throughout district and clawed their way through some close games to make it to the regional championship. The Lady Bulldogs defeated Red Oak 42-39, they went 53-47 in a win against Seguin and beat Frisco Liberty on Friday night 49-42. These girls were due for a night off and as luck would have it, it was their championship game against The Colony. The Lady Bulldogs pounced on the Cougars early, defeating them 52-40 and securing them a spot in the state tournament.
It’s not to say that The Colony didn’t show up to play. After all, Jade Williams still put up 17 points and North had to work hard to shut down Libby Waddell and the rest of The Colony’s powerhouse shooters. It’s not to say that The Colony didn’t have opportunities, some caused by questionable calls that ignited the ire of North fans. It’s not to say this wasn’t a good game, because it was. North just led by 10 points most of the game and when it came to the final buzzer, those 10 points turned into 12, the biggest spread North has had since destroying Mt. Pleasant 65-28 in the first round of playoffs.
Freshman guard Stephanie Jackson stood out again, leading the team with 13 points. Jackson only became a starter half way through district play, but has become an integral part of North’s success. Although this is her first year playing it’s also her first trip to state, something not many first year starters can say.
“Getting to state my first year has set a goal for the rest of my career at North. We’re starting this goal now and we want to reach it every four years I’ve got here,” Jackson said. “We’ve just got to stay focused and never doubt the other team’s abilities.”
One player on North’s bench can say she’s been to state though, and Jackson alongside the rest of her team will be looking to senior Mikaehla Connor for leadership. Connor, who went to state her freshman year with Lovejoy, is ecstatic to have played such a role in getting her team to the tournament and happy to play her part as they continue in success.
“This team is a lot stronger than Lovejoy and I’ve been building toward this with this team,” Connor said. “There’s a big difference from my freshman year, I have a lot of responsibility on my shoulders, but I love it. I’ll take it any day.”
Head coach Michael Oldham and his players were happy to have a bit of an easier evening on the court, but there won’t be any easy games going forward in state. North will travel to Austin next weekend to compete against the other regional champions at the Frank Erwin Center. Although North had it easier against The Colony, Oldham knows how hard the girls have worked to get here and is confident that they’re prepared for anything that comes their way.
“I don’t know all the the other regionals, but I can’t imagine anyone has had a tougher playoff path than we have,” Oldham said. “I know that we are prepared for the state tournament based on who we have already played.”
North’s next opponent has not yet been announced, but the Lady Bulldogs will play next Thursday night in hopes of continuing their success into the state championship game on Saturday. The semifinals are at 7 and 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27. Other State Class 4A Final Four qualifiers are Brennan, Canyon and Georgetown. The semifinal match ups will be announced by UIL on Sunday, Feb. 23. The championship game is Saturday, March 1, at 3 p.m.