Last week the 28th ESPY Awards, the annual ceremony devoted to honoring standout professional and collegiate athletes and teams of the past year was held in virtually. It’s the sports equivalent to the Oscars or Grammys, so why not put a high school spin on the concept?
Over the past school year, all three McKinney schools have showcased no shortage of notable individual and team athletic achievements, so it is only appropriate to put the last season of local city-wide sports into an award-winning perspective. In the coming weeks, the city’s top athletes, teams and games will be recognized among nine different awards.
With that said, Star Local Media presents the seventh edition of The Varsity’s
Deb Harris – McKinney girls basketball
The McKinney girls’ basketball team didn’t enter the playoffs with much fanfare around the state, except for a quiet confidence within the team itself and its veteran head coach, Debbie Harris.
While many around the state were surprised at McKinney’s postseason run, Harris wasn’t one of them. She knew she had a special team, which became the first squad since 1999 to reach the state tournament despite having double-digit losses.
Harris, who is a strong, defensive-minded coach, saw the principles she instilled into this team and program come to fruition during the postseason where McKinney held three of its five opponents to 39 points or less to get to San Antonio. During the Lionettes run to state, they won three-games by eight points or less including a narrow four-point win over Lakeview Centennial in the bi-district round.
Thanks to accomplishing every coaches dream ad getting her team to peak at the right time and showcasing to the world that she can flat out coach with anyone in the state, Deb Harris grabs this year’s Varsity for MISD Coach of The Year.
Best Breakthrough Athlete
J.J. Henry – McKinney North
Last fall, as a key cog on one of the most explosive offenses in the state, Henry was a matchup nightmare for Bulldog opponents — rolling up 71 receptions for 1,397 yards (19.7 per catch) and 16 touchdowns. By the time North’s season finished in the area round, Henry had the most receiving yards and touchdowns in Bulldogs history. The pass-catcher produced the most all-around prolific receiving season in McKinney ISD history, was named co-offensive player of the year in his district and to the first team of the Star Local Media all-area team.
He then followed that up by being a key contributor on North’s basketball team which qualified for the playoffs for their 10th consecutive season. As a result of big season on the football field, Henry’s profile has skyrocketed nationally as he now has 25 scholarship offers and counting, highlighted by Power Five schools Florida State, Colorado, TCU, Baylor and Texas A&M, among others.
The Coronavirus Pandemic
This athletic calendar year will be remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic, McKinney ISD athletics had an overall solid year that was trending toward being historic.
As MISD was set up to do some magical things in the spring as MISD athletics history was completely altered by the pandemic.
The Boyd baseball team was considered to be one of the best in the state, ranked No. 5 in Class 6A by TXHighSchoolBaseball.com, and had its sights on a return to the state tournament. A championship run for Boyd would have cemented its senior class as the best baseball team in MISD history — deprived a chance at becoming the school district’s first baseball program to make back-to-back state tournament appearances.
Another causality of the pandemic was North senior London Culbreath’s run toward history. One of the best distance runners in the nation, Culbreath lost her shot at sweeping the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at the state track and field meet, an accolade that would have put the Lady Bulldogs’ star in rarified air.
So thanks to the coronavirus, this year in MISD sports history will be full of a lot of what could have been.