SAN ANTONIO — For McKinney, there was nothing for the program or the community to hang its heads about.
After a 54-51 loss to nationally ranked Cypress Creek in the Class 6A semifinal on Friday at the Alamodome, the Lionettes were reflective and proud of everything they accomplished over the course of the 2019-20 season.
McKinney, as a No. 3 seed out of District 9-6A, made its way all the way to the Final Four in the highest classification in Texas before coming within one shot of a Cypress Creek team that is now 41-0 and tabbed as the No. 12 team in the country by MaxPreps.
“For me, from a coaching standpoint, this whole season has been spectacular, and it’s been spectacular because we’ve got great kids,” said Deb Harris, McKinney head coach. “All of our kids are great. We have great leadership. It’s a great school district, but these kids have bought in.
“Our seniors have led the charge. They’ve done everything that we’ve asked them to do. We expect to play in the state championship game. We absolutely did. We expected to battle for a state championship. I’m pleased with our effort. That’s the thing as a coach. These kids never quit. It’s just a blessing to be a part of it.”
Right out of the gate, McKinney was unfazed by the bright lights and stormed out to a big 11-2 lead behind six points from senior forward Nic Porter and eight of its 11 points coming off turnovers in the early going.
But McKinney dealt with foul trouble, saw multiple players leave with injuries for stints and saw Cypress Creek go on some big runs to eke out a close victory and stave off a tough Lionettes bunch.
Following McKinney’s 11-2 start, Cypress Creek closed the first half on a 28-14 run the rest of the way before both teams went to the locker room. It did not allow a field goal in the final 2:40 of the first half, took a 40-33 lead by holding McKinney scoreless in the final 4:02 of the third quarter and then got a large enough lead on senior guard Ally Haman’s huge 3 to put the Lady Cougars ahead 50-45 with 1:18 left.
“When we went up, I know our energy went up and the momentum went up,” said Erin Fry, McKinney senior. “But when our main five, our guards, started getting in foul trouble, that really did change the whole game because the core of this team is really important to us. When they started going down, it’s hard to pick back up.”
McKinney, like it has all season and did all game, would not be deterred by its opponent taking a lead. The Lionettes put themselves in a position to have a chance at the end to potentially send the game into overtime and be one win away from their first-ever state title.
As Cypress Creek made one of its two free throw attempts with nine seconds remaining in regulation, McKinney stormed down the court with an opportunity in hand to extend its special season at least another few minutes. A Fry 3-point attempt looked good from the release but didn’t quite fall through the basket, and one more 3-pointer from McKinney after an offensive rebound was no good with just one second left.
“It was very difficult (to close the gap) when we were only about six or seven kids, but we just had to keep working, keep pushing through, and I think that’s what we did,” Porter said. “We left it all on the court.”
Fry led McKinney with 16 points, adding five assists and three rebounds to her tally. Porter was right behind her with 12 points, including 10 on 4-of-5 shooting and a pair of 3s in the first quarter to help her team to a 15-11 lead. Junior guard Trinity White scored nine, hit two 3-point baskets and hauled in four rebounds. Senior guard Taylor Bouck scored seven on a perfect 3-for-3 day and added a pair of steals in a stellar defensive outing.
“It was a tough loss,” Fry said. “It hurts to come here this far last year as a senior and not be able to finish, but to be able to go down in McKinney High history, it means a lot and it’s a great deal for us.”
The Lionettes say goodbye to six seniors, all of whom played a pivotal role in building McKinney up into one of the state’s elite teams this season.
Naomi Anamekwe, Bouck, Fry, Jessica Halderman, Taylor Jackson, Porter lifted McKinney to new heights. They went to the playoffs in two of the last three years and made their first trip to the state tournament since 1998, setting an example both on and off the court for the younger players coming through to follow.
“We’ve gone from asking them to be role players for a few years to they are the reason that we are playing in the state tournament,” Harris said. “It’s been impressive to me to watch their group, not just as players but as people. You cannot find a better group of human beings. I’m excited. The little ones, we call them our littles. These are our bigs and we call our young ones our littles.
“They’re close, and that’s the other thing that is so special about this team is they care. It’s not, ‘Hey, I’m a senior. You’re a freshman.’ These seniors have taken these kids under their wings, and it’s a family environment. I know people throw that word out there all the time, but if you really want to know what family is, it’s McKinney High School women’s basketball. It’s McKinney High School. Period.”