Role Reversal: Lionettes top Lady Broncos to reach postseason
Here we go again.
As if the cross-town rivalry wasn't itself enough, the McKinney and McKinney Boyd athletic programs added another crucial chapter in their spirited competition Tuesday night as the Lionettes basketball team defeated the Lady Broncos 49-43 to reach the postseason.
"This is a huge accomplishment for our kids," said Debbie Harris, McKinney head coach. "This says a lot about who we are as a team. They have confidence in each other and know that they've earned the right to be here. We knew we were the underdog all season. I think there are a lot of people that are surprised we're in this situation, but our kids aren't surprised because they prepared themselves for this."
This marked the second time this school year that the playoff hopes of both teams came down to their regular season finale, which in both instances happened to be against one another. In November, Boyd's football team bested McKinney to clinch a postseason berth, eliminating the Lions from contention.
This time around, the script would be flipped as the Lionettes (4-6) bested the Lady Broncos (2-8) in a game that was close right up until the end.
"We knew coming in both teams needed this win to get into the playoffs," said Rochelle Vaughn, Boyd head coach. "Unfortunately we didn't execute at times like we wanted to and we let ourselves get into a few holes. Overall we had great effort, just not great execution."
Junior Mariah Mitchell led the way for McKinney, scoring a game-high 23 points, followed by junior Jazsmin Nelson's 11.
"Mariah is a big part of what we do on both ends of the floor," Harris said. "What more can you say? She's our leading scorer and she's the leading scorer in the district."
On the other end of the court, senior Julia Hendrieth led the Lady Broncos with 12, followed by senior Micaela Gonzalez's nine, and eight apiece from senior Charmaine Celestine and junior Haley Carruthers.
"Julia stepped up for us tonight when we needed her," Vaughn said. "Micaela, another senior, also had a good game and our point guard Charmaine played a great game for us. She kept us in it at key points."
Nelson got things rolling for the Lionettes, scoring their first 11 points of the game. This included hitting three shots from beyond the arc. McKinney led, 15-12, after the first quarter and 21-20 at the half.
In addition to the strong offensive play from Mitchell and Nelson, Harris credits the team's victory to a much-improved defensive presence over the one the Lionettes had in their 57-51 loss to the Lady Broncos on Jan. 18.
"Our defense was better tonight," she said. "There's no question we handled Boyd's pressure better than we did the first time we played them."
The Lady Broncos trailed by eight at one point in the fourth, but cut it to two in the final few minutes.
"We made a good run there at the end," Vaughn said. "We forced a couple turnovers on their end and cut it to a one-possession game."
The Lionettes, however, would make their free throws in the final minute, sealing the victory.
Even though she's proud of her team's overall effort, Harris knows her players must overcome their occasional late-game errors moving forward.
"We struggled in the final four minutes," she said. "When we get tired, we make some mental mistakes. The lead we had definitely helped us because they went on a run there."
Although the Lady Broncos will miss out on the postseason, Vaughn is proud of her team's resolve this season, which included overcoming a consistent slew of injuries.
"I told them in sports unfortunately one team has to win and one has to lose, and tonight that was us," she said. "But they can look back and say they gave their best effort, left everything out on the court and have nothing to be ashamed of."
As the Lionettes prepare for the postseason, Harris is proud of the season-long effort her team gave, culminating in this cornerstone win.
"Everything that we had was on the line tonight," she said. "Our team embraced it and this is just a magical moment for our kids. I can't think of a group of kids that deserves it more. I'm proud of them."