Timely corrections: North overcomes sluggish start, dominates Richardson Pearce (UPDATED)
MCKINNEY -- As if flipping a switch, the McKinney North boys basketball team quickly erased several troubling minutes of play with sheer dominance the rest of the way in its 59-46 victory against Richardson Pearce Friday night. The win came in the opening round of the OrthoTexas Invitational from Boyd High School.
"We came out struggling at first, but once we got on a roll everything was going our way," said Jola Otubu, North guard. "We just got into our mental zone and started knocking down shots. We started slowing things down and doing things the Bulldog way."
North improves to 10-7 on the year while Pearce falls to 8-10. Julion Pearre led the way for the Bulldogs with 18 points, followed by Otubu, who had 12, Tanner Little, who had 11, and Bryson Brown, who had eight.
"Jola played really well," said Darryll Craft, North head coach. "I think he knocked down three threes in a row. He played great and Tanner Little played his best game of the year both offensively and defensively. He played hard inside and was real physical."
It didn't take long after tip-off for the Mustangs to leap out to a 13-5 lead. North would keep it close, outscoring Pearce for the remainder of the first, cutting the Mustangs' lead to five at 17-12 heading into the second quarter.
The Bulldogs, used to playing several games each week, had an entire week off between games because of the holiday break.
"We came out a little dull because of the break and we just got on a roll after the first quarter," Otubu said.
The second frame proved much better for North as the Bulldogs were able to keep the strong momentum that they had generated toward the end of the first quarter going.
"We just started knocking them down," Otubu said. "We started feeding the ball, swinging the ball and getting open shots."
The Bulldogs would cut it to two at 21-19 on a Steele Douglas layup deep into the second quarter. Minutes later Otubu would bank a three-pointer, cutting what was once nearly a 10-point deficit to just one. Kody Wilson would later give the Bulldogs the lead at 24-23 with about a minute and a half remaining before the half.
North would go into halftime leading 29-25 as Pearce's quick start had suddenly given way to the Bulldogs' strong turnaround.
"We did a good job of staying in the game in the first half," Craft said. "They jumped on us pretty good. We didn't shoot it too well to start, but we picked up our intensity defensively and got some big baskets."
North picked up right where it left off in the second half, scoring five fast points to start the third quarter, padding their lead to 34-29. Befuddled, Pearce head coach Marc Johnson was forced to call a timeout just 30 seconds into the second half to give his team a moment of reprieve.
"We ran a set play to Julion, and he's one of our best players, especially going to the rack," Craft said. "He takes it strong to the rack and we get two, then we get a turnover and knock down the three. You can't ask for a better start to any quarter, especially coming out of the half. We had our momentum going."
The Bulldogs had suddenly outscored the Mustangs 29-12 since their first quarter troubles, as the 17-point advantage swung the game in North's favor.
The Bulldogs' dominance continued to shine through as Otubu sank a 3-pointer as time expired in the third quarter, giving the Bulldogs a 53-40 lead heading into the final frame. The Bulldogs led by as many as 16 in the fourth quarter, cruising the rest of the way to victory.
Craft, though, knows every game his team has played all season is leading up to their fast approaching district opener Jan. 4 against Greenville.
"Our next most important game is Jan. 4 at Greenville," Craft said. "We have to be ready for that and that's what we're trying to do, make sure we get ourselves ready mentally and physically for that district opener."
North falls to Boyd in semifinals
The Bulldogs were unable to keep their strong opening round play going later in the tournament. North fell to cross-town rival McKinney Boyd in the OrthoTexas Invitational semifinals, 66-45.