Written by Matt Wixon
McKinney North's first state tournament pairs it against Texas No. 1 SA Brennan
MCKINNEY – Canyon has been to the girls state tournament 24 times and Georgetown has been there 10 times and is the defending Class 4A champion. San Antonio Brennan is heading to the Frank Erwin Center in Austin for the second straight year.
And then there’s McKinney North. The school colors are orange and navy blue, but when it comes to the state tournament, the girls basketball program is pure green. McKinney North will make its state debut Thursday at 8:30 p.m. in a semifinal against Brennan.
“I think there will be some butterflies to start out because none of us have been there,” said McKinney North senior forward Mikaehla Connor, “but I think we’ll shake them off because we’ve played in big games and close games.”
McKinney North (28-4) is new to the state tournament, but it’s far from a Cinderella story. The Lady Bulldogs have been atop the 4A rankings throughout the season, and the only Texas teams to beat McKinney North are in 5A.
McKinney North’s players don’t expect to be intimidated by the magnitude of the moment, by playing in a huge arena or by Brennan (34-1), which has been atop the 4A state rankings most of the season. Brennan has six players who are 6-foot or taller, including posts who are 6-3 and 6-4. McKinney North, whose three tallest players are 6-foot even, is a guard-oriented team that flusters opponents with pressure defense.
“I’m going to try to play fast and hold my ground,” said 6-0 senior forward Amy Kleynhans. “Use my athleticism.”
McKinney North, which has won 15 straight games, has plenty of that.
“It’s going to be our speed against their size,” McKinney North coach Michael Oldham said. “We’re going to be in a world of trouble if we let them come down and set up in the halfcourt and just execute their plays, because they’re very good at it.”
Brennan is a good at a lot of things, but so is McKinney North, and it has the depth to sub five players at a time. The typical playing rotation of nine or 10 includes two double-figure scorers, junior forward Chanterria Jackson at 11.9 points per game and Connor at 11.4. It also includes two sophomores and three freshmen, but Oldham isn’t worried about their inexperience.
They haven’t played in the state tournament, but they’ve played in big games. That would include last week’s regional tournament, in which McKinney North won a tough battle with Frisco Liberty in the semifinals and in the final beat The Colony and its talented 6-3 freshman, Jade Williams.
Some early jitters are expected Thursday. But that will be the case for Brennan, too.
"I think Brennan’s got more pressure on them than we do,” Oldham said. “They were there last year, they were No. 1 all year, and they’ve got four seniors starting. It’s their last chance.”
For McKinney North, it’s a first chance. There’s a hope that more state trips are to come, but the team won’t take the opportunity for granted.
“We’re not just happy to be there,” Oldham said. “We’re going there to win it. I can promise you that.”
McKinney North vs. San Antonio Brennan
8:30 p.m. Thursday
District: 13-4A (first) Record: 28-4
Coach: Michael Oldham
State titles: 0
Previous appearances (last): None
Playoff victories: 65-28 over Mount Pleasant, 42-39 over Red Oak, 53-47 over Arlington Seguin, 49-42 over Frisco Liberty, 52-40 over The Colony.
Top players: Mikaehla Connor, 5-9, G, Sr.; Chanterria Jackson, 6-0, F, Jr.; Breah Powell; 5-7, G, Fr.
Notable: McKinney North, which was ranked atop the Dallas-area 4A rankings most of the season, doesn’t have a player taller than 6-foot, but the team is loaded with quickness. It forces numerous turnovers with its pressure defense and excels in transition. … Forward Chanterria Jackson (11.9 points) and Mikaehla Connor (11.4) are the team’s leading scorers, but North’s deep team has lots of scoring options. … North’s playing rotation usually includes nine or 10 players and includes five that are freshmen or sophomores. … North has won 15 straight games.
SAN ANTONIO BRENNAN
District: 28-4A (first) Record: 34-1
Coach: Koty Cowgill
State titles: None
Previous appearances (last): 2 (2013)
Playoff victories: 48-33 over Boerne Champion, 57-31 over Cedar Park Vista Ridge, 60-56 over Cedar Park, 61-30 over CC Tuloso-Midway, 49-33 over Leander.
Top players: Tanaeya Boclair, 6-0, G/F, Sr.; Carlie Heineman, 6-0, G, Sr.; Tia Mason, 6-3, C, Sr.
Notable: Tanaeya Boclair, who signed with Utah, is Brennan’s leading scorer (15 points per game) and can play inside or out. Carlie Heineman is an outstanding 3-point shooter and Tia Mason is one of six players on the roster at 6-foot or above. … Brennan’s only loss this season was to Manvel, which plays Plano West on Friday in a 5A state semifinal. Brennan’s 18-game win streak began with a 52-50 victory at the Sandra Meadows Classic over Frisco Liberty, which McKinney North beat, 51-42, in a Region II semifinal.