The journey begins: North dominates Pine Tree in bi-district
VAN -- The state basketball tournament in Austin won't start until Feb. 28.
But the No. 8 state-ranked McKinney North girls basketball team took their first step to reaching that goal with a 78-26 trouncing of Longview Pine Tree Monday night in their bi-district matchup from Van High School.
"I'm excited that my girls came out with a lot of intensity," said Michael Oldham, North head coach. "We just tried to overwhelm them with our press like we've done with a few teams. This is a continuation of what we've been doing all season by remaining focused. Tonight was just further proof that in my eyes they're focused on their ultimate goal and not just going a few rounds deep."
The win gives North the program's first 30-win basketball season, putting the Lady Bulldogs at 30-3 on the year. The victory also extends North's winning streak to 23 straight games. North's next round opponent will not be decided until Wednesday morning.
"Win No. 30 is a benchmark for us," Oldham said. "Now we've just got six more to go [for a state title run]. This is a great start. Glad we got it out of the way."
Sophomore Chanterria Jackson led the way with 18 points, followed closely by senior Alexis Mason's 17 and junior Mikaehla Connor's 11.
"Chanterria had her usual strong contribution," Oldham said. "She got some transitions, hit some jumpers in the middle of the paint. Alexis had a good night too, scoring four of our nine 3-pointers. She really got us started once again like she's been doing. And Connor played her usual great defense against their best player."
Not only did North keep Pine Tree in single digits in three of the four quarters, the Lady Bulldogs also prevented their opponent from having a single player reach double digits.
North came storming out to start, taking a commanding 20-4 lead in just the first quarter. The Lady Bulldogs had a hot hand from downtown early, hitting four of their nine 3-pointers in the first frame.
North's dominant lead would build to a 30-point margin after the second quarter, as the Lady Bulldogs took a 40-10 advantage into the half.
"We got a lot of transition baskets," Oldham said. "The times we did set up a half-court offense, they were in zone and we pretty much executed either getting the easy basket or hitting the three."
With the win in hand in the second half, North rested its starters, allowing its bench players to contribute as all 10 Lady Bulldogs scored in Monday's game.
"Everybody played and everybody scored and we were able to keep that momentum," Oldham said. "We actually scored more in the fourth quarter than we did in the previous three. That's important because we can't allow a drop-off to happen when the first group comes out and I think the second group took that to heart tonight."
Oldham understands that some dominant teams get overconfident and fall victim to seemingly lesser opponents in the first few rounds. That's something the Lady Bulldogs are well-guarded against as they prepare for their second round matchup.
"In the playoffs it's important to stay on the grind," Oldham said. "We preach to them how important that is. They're so focused we haven't had a drop-off in awhile."
While the overall trip through the postseason leading up to the state tournament can be a daunting journey for most teams, Oldham stresses a unique approach to his players.
"Before the game I talked to them about how most coaches see the trip to Austin as an uphill battle," he said. "For them it's like pushing a snowball up a hill: it just gets heavier and heavier with each game. I told them I want us to visualize ourselves at the top of the hill and we're rolling down each game. A snowball rolling downhill just keeps gaining momentum, making it harder to stop. That's our mentality right now."