Victory all the same: Lady Bulldogs overcome key absence, beat Lady Bearcats
The No. 9 state-ranked McKinney North girls may have been missing a key starter in Tuesday night's game, but the Lady Bulldogs still picked up a 72-61 win over Sherman.
"This is the first time we've been through any adversity as far as having somebody injured or sick," said Michael Oldham, North head coach, "so I was really pleased with how the girls rallied together."
North (23-3, 8-0) played without junior forward KK Connor, who missed the game because of bronchitis, but is expected back Friday.
Connor has been a central piece of the Lady Bulldogs' defense this season.
"This is the first time I've coached a game this season without her," Oldham said. "I was anxious to see how we would respond with probably our best defender not out there and the girls really responded well."
The Lady Bulldogs had four different players score 10 or more points, led by senior Alexis Mason's 19, sophomore Chanterria Jackson's 18, junior Amy Kleynhans' 12 and junior Ali Michalak's 10.
"Anytime you can get four people in double digits, you're happy because it means you probably put a good amount of points on the board, which we were able to do," Oldham said. "We were getting good looks. As a team we shot the ball really well tonight. They made their open shots and that's the way it's supposed to work."
Oldham was especially proud of Michalak's performance.
"Ali started in place of KK," he said. "She scored 10 points, played solid defense and shot the ball real well."
Oldham was also pleased by the support he got from his bench. In addition to Michalak's performance, senior forward Viona Vraniqi and sophomore guard Lauren Foster also contributed key minutes to the victory.
"Those girls are getting better each and every night," he said. "They give us great energy."
North jumped out to a 24-13 lead in the first quarter.
"The way we play, it's always important for us to get out to a good start," Oldham said. "Because then we can start mixing our defenses up a little bit. Fortunately, this year we've been able to do that for the most part."
The final score wasn't indicative of the Lady Bulldogs' dominance over the course of the first three quarters, in which they led, 60-36. Sherman cut the 24-point deficit to a more respectable margin by outscoring North, 25-12, in the final frame.
"We can't be giving up 25 points in the fourth quarter," Oldham said. "They took advantage of some mismatches that were on the court and that was very smart of their coaching staff to do. They just kind of got rolling downhill on us and we struggled to stop that momentum."
The victory keeps North perfect in district as it heads into Friday's 6:30 p.m. road game against Royse City.
While the Lady Bulldogs are having a strong season, Oldham strives to achieve more, looking to Duncanville (the No. 1 ranked 5A team in the state) as a source of influence.
"We're focusing on going one game at a time," he said. "I know our girls got an undefeated run in their heads and I'm not going to lie, I do too, because that's special. The path we're trying to set for our program is we want to be Duncanville North, basically, and they don't lose in district. That's the mindset I'm trying to build with our girls."