By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor
If McKinney High misses the girls basketball postseason by just one game, Friday night’s home loss versus Plano East would be a huge reason why.
Entering the day McKinney, Plano East, and McKinney Boyd were all tied for third place in District 10-5A at 2-4. The Lady Broncos were defeated at home by Plano, which meant that the winner of the contest at McKinney High would have sole possession of third place with three games remaining.
Led by a lethal three-point performance, the Lady Panthers staved off the Lionettes 55-53 to win their third district game of the season. McKinney dropped to 2-5 in 10-5A and 16-15 overall.
In a game that saw four ties and 13 lead changes, it was only fitting that the game came down to the final minutes. After both teams had traded off baskets and alternated taking the led three times, McKinney’s Mariah Mitchell hit an easy lay up to put the Lionettes up 46-45 with about three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately for the blue and gold, the Lady Panthers would take the lead soon after on a Kennedy Munson three pointer. It was a lead that they would not relinquish. After Doneesha Corbin hit a three-pointer to make it 51-46, the Lionettes made it a three-point deficit after Leslie Zupanic hit a lay up to make it 51-48.
After a Plano East timeout with 2:14 remaining, both teams committed a turnover on their respective possessions. On the ensuing possession, the Lady Panthers committed an offensive foul with 1:12 remaining and gave the Lionettes an opportunity to tie the ballgame.
The Lionettes were able to cut it to a one-point game after Mitchell hit a short jumper, part of her game-high 18 points. McKinney called an immediate timeout with just 56 second remaining, the last one head coach Debbie Harris had at her disposal.
While the Lionettes desperately needed a defensive stop or a turnover, the Lady Panthers instead made them pay for being over aggressive as Letty Bornstad hit a short layup to make it 53-50 with 39 seconds left.
On the ensuing play, Jazmin Nelson went one-of-two from the free throw line to make it 53-51 with 27 seconds remaining. McKinney quickly fouled Jasmine Caston and sent her to the charity stripe, where she sank both free throws as part of her team-high 12 points.
Nelson would cut sink a short shot to make it 55-53 with just six seconds left, but Daria McCutcheon’s missed free throw attempt for the Lady Panthers ran just enough time off the clock to prevent the Lionettes from attempting an accurate hail Mary, sealing the victory for Plano East in one of the district’s most important games of the season.
After the game, Harris wanted to keep positive thoughts going in her kids but understood that they can’t turn the ball over 14 times and expect to win district ballgames.
“You can’t turn over the basketball and expect to beat people. We shot ourselves in the foot,” said Harris.
With a roster of just nine kids, the rotation of minutes doesn’t allow for the Lionettes to get a lot of rest, something that perpetuates itself in games when they play fast-paced basketball.
“I still think we shoot ourselves out of ballgames because we don’t have depth,” said Harris. “Our kids are still learning that just because you play fast and take good shots that go in every once in a while, the problem is you start to get fatigued.”
After neither team could really feel out the other in the first quarter, the Lady Panthers took an 11-7 lead into the second quarter. Led by Mitchell, Nelson, and Mika Stutts, McKinney outscored Plano East 20-9 in the frame to take a 27-20 advantage into halftime. Mitchell had eight points in the quarter while Nelson finished with five points. Stutts had seven of her 13 points in the second quarter as well.
The third quarter wasn’t as kind to the Lionettes, as they saw their lead evaporate in just four and a half minutes as the Lady Panthers went on an 11-4 run to start the frame. Despite the rough start, McKinney would take a one-point advantage into the final quarter after Stutts hit a half-court buzzer beater to make it 38-37.
With just three district games remaining, Harris and the Lionettes are still right in the thick of the playoff race for the final one or two spots in the standings. When asked if there was a lesson the team can learn from tonight’s loss, the head coach said it is a similar lesson the team has yet to learn from this season.
“It is the same lesson we keep learning over and over again,” said Harris. “The bottom line is that we have got to get better at handling the basketball. We have spent a lot of time in practice and they have gotten better at it, but it is what it is. We have good kids that work really hard, but they are still learning how to play basketball.”
McKinney will host Plano West (6-1) on Tuesday night, beginning at 6 p.m.
District 10-5A Standings:
1. Plano 7-0
2. Plano West 6-1
3. Plano East 3-4
4. McKinney Boyd 2-5
4. McKinney 2-5
6. Allen 1-6
Other Scores From District 10-5A:
McKinney Boyd 33
Plano West 63
Tuesday’s 10-5A Games: