Believe it: North continues run, tops Mansfield Legacy in ultra low-scoring affair
COPPELL -- A basketball season is made up of more than a thousand minutes of game time, but Tuesday night the fate of the McKinney North boys season came down to 5.2 seconds.
In the end there were lots of handshakes and hugs for the Bulldogs (23-11) after beating Mansfield Legacy, 23-21 in overtime, in the regional quarterfinals from Coppell High School.
"I can't believe it," said Darryll Craft, North head coach. "Our kids found a way to win the game. I couldn't possibly be happier for them. I told the kids earlier, this is something you don't get to experience often. It's once in a lifetime and now they get the opportunity to continue it. We get to fight another day."
The low-scoring, defensive-heavy affair came down to the final moments of overtime as North junior Collin Curran made a timely steal and sank a pair of free throws (the only points in overtime for either team) with 5.2 seconds left to break the 21-21 tie. Legacy missed a last-second layup to give North the 23-21 victory.
"Collin makes a heck of a steal then knocks down two crucial foul shots," Craft said. "They got a good look right there at the end and we were fortunate enough that they missed it."
Julion Pearre led the way for North with eight points while Jola Otubu posted six points and Curran had five.
"We found a way to battle," Craft said. "Mental toughness was the key to this game. They're bigger, stronger and more athletic than we are, but we found a way to win and that's mental toughness."
The game maintained its fast-paced, low-scoring tempo throughout the night.
"They're very methodical," Craft said. "We wanted to do everything we could to keep it close so we could have a chance to win the game."
North would scratch out a 15-13 halftime lead.
"I thought we played well in the first half," Craft said. "We got off to a slow start, but we battled back and took the lead and I'm happy with that."
At the half, Craft shared a halftime speech that proved prophetic.
"I told them that 16 minutes doesn't get your dreams fulfilled," he said.
Craft was speaking about the Bulldogs' slim first-half lead, but he might as well have been referring to the second half as it took an additional four minutes for North to claim victory after a second half in which just 14 total points were scored by both teams.
North had the largest lead of the night, 18-13, early in the third. Legacy, however, roared back to take a 21-18 edge at the end of the quarter. With five minutes left in the fourth, Otubu drove the lane for the team's only fourth-quarter field goal, a layup that tied the game at 21-21.
"Jola has just been clutch all day long and all year long for us," Craft said. "There wasn't a lot of scoring going on, so there weren't a lot of holes, but he created a hole and managed to get to the rack and score."
North played keep-away the rest of the quarter, waiting for the last shot, which ended up being a missed layup in the waning seconds.
"I thought that the way this game was going we weren't going to get a lot of good looks," Craft said. "I thought if we shortened the game it would help us on the defensive end because we had a hard time blocking those guys out."
Late in overtime, Curran forced a turnover and was fouled as he drove into the paint. At that point, Craft knew the Bulldogs' season was in good hands.
"If I could have anybody up there, it's Collin Curran," he said. "No doubt about it."
Curran made both shots, sealing the 23-21 win for the Bulldogs.
North's playoff run has surprised many, but not Bulldogs athletic director Mike Fecci.
"This is a great group of young men and coach Craft does a great job with them," he said. "They've brought this school to a whole new level of spirit. Coach Craft is one of the best coaches around and this team's hard work has paid off in this playoff run and we're excited about it."
Next up for North is No. 8 state-ranked Dallas Kimball with that Region II Semifinal set for 6 p.m. Friday at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland.
"I told them whatever we had to do, we had to get the job done," Craft said. "I don't think anybody picked us to go to the regional tournament at the beginning of the year, the middle of the year or even at the end of the regular season, so we know we're underdogs. We're going to be underdogs in our next game too and our kids don't mind it."