Resilient: McKinney girls battle back, finish strong in Allen tournament
The McKinney girls basketball team finished its weekend tournament in Allen with three straight wins, making them the champions of the tournament's bronze bracket.
This is particularly impressive given that the Lionettes did it with only six players.
"We won the bronze bracket," said Debbie Harris, McKinney head coach. "We're missing a few players for various reasons, so we only had six kids who played in those games and it was good for them, good for their confidence and it was fun."
This comes after the Lionettes (4-4) began the season at 1-4, which included dropping the first two games of the tournament to Bishop Lynch and Princeton.
"We're gaining more confidence the more that we play," Harris said. "We have a long way to go, but we're making progress. We need continuous, constant improvement and I think we're getting there."
McKinney went on to beat Irving, Lovejoy and Ursuline to win the bronze bracket.
"I think we're starting to become comfortable with our identity," Harris said. "We don't have a lot of depth or a lot size, so there are some things we're going to have to do to try to be successful in our district. It's been an experiment so far with all of the games we've been playing."
The Lionettes have only nine players on their varsity roster, something Harris refuses to use as an excuse.
"I think we can compete with anybody we play against," she said. "My biggest concern is obviously our depth as we're only carrying nine kids on our team and we try to play pretty fast, but I do think we're going to surprise some people."
McKinney's starting five is made up of junior guard Mika Stutts, senior guard Nicole Quincy, junior forward Jazsmin Nelson, sophomore guard Krissy Fontillas, and junior guard Mariah Mitchell.
"Our key is going to be Mariah Mitchell to Jazsmin Nelson and then from a leadership standpoint it's Nicole Quincy," Harris said. "Those three at any given time are usually on the floor."
Harris said she is most impressed by her team's mentality.
"The thing that impressive me the most," she said, "is that there are going to have to be things we have to do in order to be successful with a limited number of kids, and our kids are really starting to buy in to what our philosophy is, especially on the defensive end. I'm excited about that."
Harris believes one of the team's strengths can't be found in the stat box, but rather in the intangibles.
"The fact that they're so close and play together and play hard every possession, I think that's a huge strength," she said. "They understand we are limited in our resources, they understand people have overlooked us, and they're just getting to the point where it doesn't bother them. The fact that they're not using that as an excuse is something that I'm proud of."
McKinney's goal is to win the district title. It's a challenge Harris believes her players are ready for, no matter the tough competition in their district.
"We're going to battle with every team we step on the court with," she said. "Plano West is right there and so is Plano Senior and Allen, they're all good teams. We're going to have to do some things to slow them down and try to be smart with what we do."
Harris admits there are some areas the team needs to improve in, particularly their heavy reliance on certain players, which Harris said needs to dissolve into more of a team effort.
"We need to do a better job of scoring, obviously," she said. "We've had several games where Jazsmin and Mariah have carried the brunt of our offensive work and that needs to be better distributed."
As the Lionettes go deeper into the season, Harris knows that hardships like having the lack of size and depth that McKinney has can either tear a team apart or bring them much closer together and Harris sees nothing but this team continuing to gel.
"It really is a blessing in disguise," she said. "We talk about how you have to play the cards you're dealt. This is what we have and we're going to make the most of it. They have the confidence in themselves and I'm really proud of that."