By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor
McKinney High and McKinney Boyd both had a lot on the line on Friday night.
A Lionettes win would propel them to 3-2 at the halfway point of District 10-5A play and put them one game behind second-place Plano West.
A loss would put them back in the middle of the pack at 2-3.
For the Lady Broncos, a win over their crosstown rivals would put them in a third-place tie with McKinney, while a loss would throw them in a three-way tie for fourth place with Allen and Plano East at 1-4.
To say that this rivalry game was a must-win for both teams would be a bit of an understatement.
In front of a very energized crowd at McKinney Boyd, the Lady Broncos staved off the Lionettes 57-51 to take the first of two district meetings between the two rivals. Boyd improved to 2-3 in 10-5A and 12-15 overall, while MHS dropped to 2-3 in 10-5A and 16-13 overall. Both teams are tied for third place in district after Friday night.
“We just had to come out and compete for all four quarters,” said Boyd head coach Rochelle Vaughn following the win. “Each and every one of our players came out and contributed something positive for us, whether that is a rebound or a steal. I thought we played a total team effort tonight.”
Neither team found much of a rhythm in the first quarter, as the Lady Broncos took an 11-9 lead after the first eight minutes. From an offensive game plan, the Lady Broncos were looking to get the ball to leading scorer Julia Hendrieth, who is averaging 17 points per game in district play.
Hendrieth would finish with a team-high 15 points, but Vaughn said after the game that the team needs to feed her the ball inside more often.
“They were trying to front her but I just think we did a poor job of trying to get her the ball as a team,” said Vaughn. “They got in front of her and our guards played a bit cautious by not trying to turn the ball over, so they passed the ball around again instead of trying to feed her the ball. So I think they did a good job of fronting her, but we have got to do a better job of getting her the ball because she makes us go.”
Boyd’s Haley Carruthers finished with 13 points as the only other Lady Bronco in double figures in scoring.
In the second quarter, the Lady Broncos jumped out to a 23-14 lead, which was the largest lead in the game for either team. The Lionettes finished with just five points in the second quarter as Boyd led 23-16 at the break.
“The first couple shots in the basketball game I thought we were shooting ourselves out of the game because we didn’t have any patience,” said McKinney head coach Debbie Harris.
Halftime was good to the Lionettes, as the blue and gold stormed back with a 13-3 run to begin play to take a 29-26 lead. McKinney’s Mariah Mitchell, who finished with a game-high 16 points, began to heat up from the floor scoring seven of her points during the run.
After the game, Harris said that Mitchell’s production depends on the team’s ability to take care of the basketball.
“I think it all results from the fact that we just took care of the ball and beat their pressure. Everything that we do on our press break gives her plenty of opportunities to score,” said Harris.
The Lionettes good fortunes didn’t last long as a Khaila Stampley jumper put Boyd up 33-32 late in the third quarter. The Lady Broncos would take a 39-35 lead into the fourth quarter, led by six points by Hendrieth.
In the final eight minutes, a 6-2 run by McKinney would tie the game at 41-41 with 4:35 left in regulation. But on the next possession, Boyd’s Charmaine Celestine hit a three-pointer to give the Lady Broncos a three-point lead, one they would not surrender for the remainder of the game.
The Lionettes came within two points of tying the game late in the quarter, but three McKinney turnovers, three big Boyd offensive rebounds, and some late free throws by the Lady Broncos iced the game and secured the second district win of the season for the home team.
After the loss, Harris said that she believed her team bought too much into the McKinney rivalry and didn’t come out relaxed like they needed to.
“We just didn’t do a very good job of handling the pressure,” she said. “I think the kids get so wrapped up in this McKinney rivalry thing, but they settled down after halftime and did a better job of taking care of the ball. When we did make a mistake it was a crucial one.”
While a loss is never desired, Harris said that she was pleased with some individual performances in the game, including junior guard Mika Stutts, who finished with 14 points.
“The last few games Mika has played she has been pretty consistent offensively,” said Harris. “She’s a pretty good shooter for us so that ‘s good for her confidence. She is one of our outside shooters.”
If there were anywhere that both teams can improve upon, it would be free throw shooting. McKinney shot 54% from the line while Boyd shot right at 50%.
“It is definitely an area we have to improve,” said Vaughn. “I think that goes without saying.”
Friday night was Vaughn’s first taste of the Boyd-MHS rivalry, as she is in her first full season as the Lady Broncos head coach. After the game, Vaughn said that she talked to her players about making the crosstown game the start of something special for Boyd.
“I’m new to this rivalry, coming from the Plano district where they had two rivals. I don’t know if they really overhyped it, I just think that they really wanted to win just because it is a district game. We talked about trying to finish our season strong and that started with McKinney tonight.”
One big subtraction from the Lady Broncos that they are hoping to have back soon is senior guard Micaela Gonzalez, who was injured on Jan. 8 at Plano. Gonzalez has been in a right shoulder sling, and Vaughn said that she would receive an MRI on Monday morning.
With five games remaining in district play and in a tie for third place, Vaughn said that her team has higher goals than just making the postseason but competing to get back into the district championship race.
“We have higher goals than just making the playoffs,” said Vaughn. “I think in our district the fourth seed plays Skyline in the first round, so that isn’t ideal even though I think we can beat them.
Obviously you want to shoot as high as possible so for us, we want to come out every game, play hard, and give ourselves a chance for four quarters. We have a pretty good shot of getting more than four wins in district.”
Boyd will travel to Plano West (4-1) on Tuesday night, beginning at 6 p.m. McKinney returns home on Tuesday night to host Plano (5-0), beginning at 6 p.m.
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Santos. For more photos, or to purchase photos, please visit her website.