It’s very hard to beat a team three times in a row no matter the level of competition, but especially at the high school level.
The McKinney girls’ basketball team put that theory to work Saturday in their regional championship clash with district 9-6A champion Plano Senior whom they lost to by 11 and eight points in the regular season. After a very physical and intense game where there were more airballs shot than made three-pointers, McKinney behind their stingy opportunistic timely defense punched its ticket to the state tournament by grinding out a 32-28 win over Plano.
The Lionettes win is their sixth consecutive and more importantly allows McKinney to make their first trip to the state tournament in 22 seasons where they lost to Canyon Randall, 53-42 in the state semifinal round.
“We played a tough schedule and did well despite not being healthy and these kids care about each other and buy into the system and want to represent their school, family and basketball family and to get this far is important to them,” said McKinney head coach Deb Harris. “Tradition is important to McKinney High because we are the original school of McKinney and this is the first time our program has gotten to the semifinals since the 97-98 season, so it’s very important to our kids, school and community that we try to take this to the next level.”
After struggling to slow Plano down on the offensive end in their regular season clashes, McKinney consistently changed everything defensively from switching zones to going man-to-man and even pressing full court at times which combined threw Plano off. McKinney put together a defensive gem by executing Harris' strategy and forcing Plano to miss their first 13 shots from the field, combined this with Plano’s’ talented senior point guard Maggie Robbins getting called for her third foul with 3:21 left in the first quarter and it’s easy to see why the Lady Wildcats never found a rhythm.
As Plano shot an abysmal 10-for-55 from the field including 0-for-14 on 3-pointers. With the money on the table in the fourth quarter, Plano went 1-for-5 at the free throw line and never looked like the team which stream rolled through district 9-6A.
“We got to make shots bottom line, especially when they are wide open in a big game,” Rodney Belcher, Plano head coach said. “We had a solid season because everyone wrote us off when we lost Jordyn Merritt and then we did what we done and expected to win this game, but we fell short. Our expectations where to win this game and go to the final four, but you have to give McKinney credit they played a great game.”
Plano was led offensively by junior forward Amaya Brannon who score11 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while McKinney was led by senior star guard Erin Fry who scored ten points.
In a game where points where at a premium, the biggest baskets of the game were scored by McKinney’s senior duo of Taylor Jackson and Nic Porter. Jackson scored four points to close out the third quarter and give McKinney a 18-17 lead they would never relinquish, while Porter got a breakaway layup and hit the back end of a pair of free throws in the final seconds of the game to ice the biggest victory of the season by McKinney.
In end, Jackson and Porter’s buckets highlighted McKinney’s grit and grind mentality which has paved the way for the Lionettes to make a trip to San Antonio next week.
“I just knew we had to keep scoring and keep going because they are a great team and to beat them to go to state is amazing because I’ve never beaten them before,” Jackson said. “Next we got to keep playing together and keep each other up and play as a family,”.
“This is a product of us working together and pushing each other harder to always do better and that’s all that counts,” Porter said.