Written by Matt Wixon
Stifling defensive effort leads Skyline to bi-district win over McKinney
CARROLLTON — It all starts with defense for Skyline. And when the defenders pressure an opponent the way they did Monday night, it ends with a win.
With the help of an aggressive defense that forced numerous turnovers, Skyline pulled away from McKinney to win a Class 5A bidistrict playoff matchup, 54-38. Skyline (29-6) will play the winner of Rockwall and Garland Lakeview in the area round.
“Pressure defense is the name of the game,” Skyline coach Cassandra McCurdy said, “and transition baskets when we can get them.”
Skyline didn’t get a lot of transition baskets because McKinney (19-11) got back well on defense at R.L. Turner’s gymnasium. But the Raiders, the co-champions of District 9-5A, took the lead for good three minutes into the game and broke it open with a 14-4 run in the second quarter.
The run began and ended with 3-pointers, and in between, Skyline scored by penetrating the lane and getting close looks. Skyline 6-2 junior forward Dai’Ja Thomas was the recipient of many of the interior passes and finished with 17 points. Thomas and her teammates were also active on the offensive glass, and their work paid off with putbacks.
Mariah Mitchell, a senior guard who signed with Arkansas, led McKinney with 17 points. She scored 11 in the second quarter to keep McKinney in the game, and her team cut the lead to seven on a 3-pointer by Krissy Fontillas with two minutes left in the third. But Skyline guard Alexandria Gulley, a junior who is orally committed to Baylor, hit a jumper to start a 9-0 run that stretched Skyline’s lead to 48-32 a minute into the fourth.
Skyline’s long district winning streak was snapped earlier this season, but the young team might be hitting its stride at the right time.
“If we continue to play good defense and rebound,” McCurdy said, “I think we’ve got a chance to do well.”