Taking charge: Brother-sister combo emerge at starters for Bull Dogs

Columbus North's Patrick McKinley dunks the ball during the Bull DogsÕ game against Martinsville in Memorial Gym, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. Paige Grider for The Republic
Columbus North’s Patrick McKinley dunks the ball during the Bull DogsÕ game against Martinsville in Memorial Gym, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. Paige Grider for The Republic

Patrick and Alexa McKinley spent most of last season coming off the bench as key subs for the Columbus North boys and girls basketball teams.

This year, the brother-and-sister duo have moved into starting roles for the Bull Dogs. Alexa is a sophomore point guard for the girls team, which visits Columbus East tonight, and Patrick is a senior forward for the boys squad, which hosts the Olympians on Friday.

“It’s exciting,” Patrick said. “I like it. I started at the beginning of the year last year, and I really didn’t think about it any differently the second half of the season (coming off the bench). I just play my hardest every game and see what happens.”

Although Patrick, who averages 3.3 points a game, isn’t a big scorer, he’s one of North’s top rebounders at around seven per game.

But North boys coach Paul Ferguson said Patrick’s efforts aren’t always noticed. For example, he leads the team in deflections.

“Patrick does a lot of little things that don’t always show up in the boxscore,” Ferguson said. “He plays very hard defensively, he’s always in the right position, he’s great on help-side. Patrick has turned into a very good rebounder, and that was something we really focused on from last year to this year — becoming more physical and becoming a better rebounder.”

Patrick and his coach listed Patrick’s strengths as rebounding, defense, athleticism and scoring around the basket. Ferguson said that in the past, Patrick has has scored because of his athleticism, but has worked hard to improve some of his back-to-the-basket moves.

In an overtime win against Shelbyville, Patrick had had two big back-to-the-basket moves to score against Golden Bears standout Zach Kuhn.

“I’m trying to consistently rebound and play all around as good as I can every game,” Patrick said. “I think we’re playing well as a team, and I think we have a lot of potential. If we peak at the right time, we’re going to have a great season toward the end. We’re working toward winning the sectional.”

Meanwhile, Alexa has emerged as the girls team’s leading scorer in her first year as a starter. She is averaging 9.0 points a game.

Alexa also led the Bull Dogs with 2.8 assists and 2.3 rebounds a game going into Tuesday’s matchup at Seymour.

“We anticipated from the end of last season until now that she would step into a significant role like she has,” North girls coach Pat McKee said. “We encouraged her to be ready for that in the spring. I think she’s evolving very nicely, and we’re pleased overall, yet we still want to see more from her because we know it’s in her. She can be really, really good.”

Alexa, who has led the Bull Dogs to a 7-3 record, said moving into the starting lineup was a little bit of an adjustment.

“It’s a little hard at times, but it’s really fun, and I like helping my team,” Alexa said. “I think we just need to continue to play well and try to win sectional.”

The McKinleys try to make it to all of each other’s games. They also have a younger brother Phillip, who plays for the seventh-grade team at Central Middle School.

Their father J.R., a facilities engineer, said he and his wife Cristin, a dietician, attended nine of their kids’ basketball games last week. He said they had no weekends off from March through August.

J.R., who played at Blackford High School in Hartford City, said Cristin has the family set up with Google calendar, and all of their phones are in sync so they know where each other are at all time.

“It’s a busy schedule,” he said. “Plus, AAU all summer long, we weren’t home any weekends last summer. It’s a lot of time, but my wife does a great job of planning. We have to get three kids somewhere all the time.”