McKinney Top 10

McKinney North alum Ronald Jones II hosted a youth football camp at his alma mater just a few months after playing a role in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ run to a Super Bowl win.

As the book closes on 2021, it’s time to look back on the year that was in McKinney-area athletics.

This year was clad in noteworthy moments across all sports for McKinney ISD, including playoff success and championships won at the district and state levels.

The McKinney Courier-Gazette sports staff has compiled its top 10 sports stories of the year, concluding with the second half of that lineup.

5. Murray impresses in state debut

As a freshman, Murray made a star-studded entry to the UIL swimming scene.

She medaled in two events during her 5A state meet debut, swimming to second place in the 100-yard backstroke with a 55.69 and taking third overall in the 100 butterfly with a 56.32.

Murray was able to shake off a slow start to the state meet after taking eighth in the prelims for her butterfly swim. Rebounding with a bronze medal, Murray later managed to near-personal-record time with her swim in the backstroke.

That she did so was all the more notable considering the adjustments she and the rest of the state-bound swimmers had to make leading up to the meet. The girls meet was postponed to March 1-2 due to the historic blitz of winter storms that swept across the state in February, which left athletes like Murray unable to swim in preparation for the state meet.

She wasn’t deterred, making two trips to the podium in her first-ever appearance at state.

4. Roller-coaster year for Lions

McKinney head boys basketball coach Wes Watson said moments after the conclusion of the Lions’ 2020-21 season that this was the best team he had ever coached.

In many ways, that sentiment held true throughout McKinney’s campaign, which amounted to a 25-3 record and a perfect 12-0 mark in district play. The Lions looked plenty dominant in amassing those figures, posting a 23.2-point margin of victory during its 5-6A schedule, including 10 wins by at least 16 points.

Led by district MVP Ja’Kobe Walter and 5-6A defensive player of the year Alex Anamekwe, McKinney rose to No. 8 in the state by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches but had its hopes of a lengthy postseason derailed in the area round by Jesuit.

The sharp-shooting Rangers held the Lions off the scoreboard for the final 4:25 of the fourth quarter and closed the game on an 11-0 run en route to a 64-60 victory.

It was hardly the ending that McKinney had envisioned, and the team is in the midst of what it hopes is a bounce-back campaign for 2021-22 — returning all five starters from last season’s team.

3. Lady Bulldogs raise the bar

The McKinney North volleyball team had a lofty bar to clear this year after a historic finish to its 2020 campaign — a season that resulted in the program’s deepest-ever playoff run with a trip to the regional finals.

The Lady Bulldogs made some more history in 2021 by capturing their first district championship. And it didn’t come in just any typical volleyball district.

North scored one of the program’s signature victories on Sept. 24 with a 3-0 sweep of two-time defending 5A state champion Lovejoy. Led by 19 kills in just three sets by senior Sydney Huck, the Lady Bulldogs scored their first-ever win over the perennial powerhouse Lady Leopards and nearly made it a sweep in the rematch on Oct. 19 before falling in five sets.

North pushed Lovejoy, which went on to win its third consecutive 5A state title in November, like no other team in 5A, and the two wound up splitting the district title in 10-5A as a result.

A playoff rubber match never materialized, however, as North’s run was cut short in the regional quarterfinals by Frisco Reedy.

2. Bartholomew’s golden finish

All Bartholomew did across his career with McKinney Boyd’s track and field team is improve.

Advancing further in the postseason each year in the 400-meter dash, Bartholomew’s ascent paid off in droves during his senior season as he captured a Class 6A state title in his final high school race.

He did so in fitting fashion, dropping his time under 48 seconds in the 400 for the first time ever. He ran a 47.27 — the only sub-48-second time in the state final, held May 8 at the University of Texas in Austin.

Prior to state, Bartholomew won championships in the 400 at the district, area and regional meets.

He improved on his time at state in July, running a 46.66 to finish second at the Brooks PR Invitational.

1. RoJo wins Super Bowl

McKinney North alum Ronald Jones II rewrote the record books during his storied career with the Bulldogs’ football team. In 2021, Jones found plenty of success on the professional gridiron.

Now in his fourth year at running back with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jones was part of the team’s run to a championship in Super Bowl LV in February — becoming the first player from his alma mater and only the second player in McKinney ISD history to play on the NFL’s most hallowed stage.

Jones impressed plenty during his third season with the Buccaneers, rushing for 978 yards and seven touchdowns in 2020 — both career-high marks in a year that culminated with Tampa Bay defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 to win the franchise’s second-ever championship.

Jones returned to his alma mater later that summer to host a youth football camp. During the event, North head coach Mike Fecci and McKinney ISD athletic director Jennifer Frazier announced that Jones’ No. 24 would be retired.

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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