By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor
If the McKinney North Bulldogs want to win the District 13-4A championship, a win like the one on Tuesday night will go along way towards making those dreams a reality.
With the Bulldogs facing Royse City and Lovejoy in their next next two basketball games, the third- and first-place boys teams in the district, respectively, North needed to take care of business at home versus Sherman to keep pace in the highly-competitive three-team race.
The Bulldogs smashed Sherman 93-73 behind a tremendous shooting night from the field and forcing 14 Bearcat turnovers. Five players finished in double figures in points for the Bulldogs, led by Colin Curran with 21 points.
“That’s what he is capable of doing on a nightly basis,” said head coach Darryll Craft.
North started the game on a 9-1 run behind two quick three-pointers by Jola Otubu, while Sherman did not record its first field goal until the 4:48 mark in the first quarter. The Bulldogs were able to control the tempo from the beginning and never lost the lead for the entire game.
After outscoring the Bearcats 27-13 in the opening quarter, the Bulldogs continued their hot streak from the three-point line and went on a 13-0 run that began late in the first quarter to extend their lead to 16. North would end up scoring 31 points in the quarter and carry a 58-35 lead into the locker room, carried by a 68% shooting in the first half and seven three-pointers made. The Bulldogs would finish with nine three-pointers in the game.
In the second half, the Bearcats got as close as 14 points to the Bulldogs as the tempo of the game slowed down tremendously, especially in the fourth quarter. Despite scoring 93 points in the game versus the Sherman defense, Craft said that same Bearcat defense is what almost knocked off district-leading Lovejoy a few games ago.
“They beat Wylie and they had Lovejoy down the entire game, playing that style of defense, but we didn’t make them look very good tonight because we shot lights out,” said Craft.
It was not just from the perimeter that the Bulldogs were shooting lights out. North finished 32-of-36 from the free throw line, despite missing three of their final eight attempts. Sherman finished 13-of-20 from the charity stripe in the game.
When asked after the game is free-throw shooting has been one of the strong suits for his team all season, Craft said it is a game-by-game kind of thing.
“It is up and down,” said Craft. “We shot for about 45 minutes on Monday of just three-pointers and free throws because I knew we were going to be playing a zone defense tonight. I’m proud of the kids because they bought into it and played really well tonight.”
After the win over Sherman and the Greenville win versus Royse City, the Bulldogs are now in sole possession of second place at 5-1 and one game ahead of Royse City, who the Bulldogs will face on the road on Friday night.
“We understood the importance of this game,” said Craft following the game. “Win this game and you have a three-game lead over everyone who is in fourth place and below you. Our first goal is to make playoffs, but now we can start looking up at who is ahead or tied with us which is Lovejoy and Royse City, and we better look up at them because it is who we have the next two games.”
A win for North at Royse City would set up a huge district matchup at home next Tuesday night versus Lovejoy, and Craft said he feels his players are ready for the big week ahead of them.
“You would have to think that they are, especially after this performance. Playing at their place is always tough because the lighting is a little different and stuff, but they want to shoot the three just like we do, maybe even a little more. But overall I think we are ready and all very excited.”
The Bulldogs will travel to Royse City on Friday night, beginning at 8 p.m.