Boys Basketball historic run comes to an end, defeated by Moeller in regional semi-final

Joey Deaton | Staff Writer

The historic 2017 Mason boys basketball team’s season came to an end Wednesday night in a 60-57 defeat at the hands of the Moeller Crusaders. Moeller is currently ranked the #1 team in Ohio by Associated Press and the #15 team in the nation by MaxPreps.

Mason started off strong, jumping out to an early 17-10 lead thanks to 3-pointers from seniors Matt King and Eddie Puisis. A Moeller three answered the Mason fast start and closed the gap to four at the end of the first.

Mason came out firing again in the second, finding their largest lead of the game when they led 23-13 thanks to a steal and finish from senior Carlos Lewis. Moeller senior Keegan McDowell answered with a tough jumper which was followed by another bucket by the Crusaders. Back to back 3-point plays from Moeller tied the game up at 28.

Mason head coach Greg Richards said both teams came out and made their shots they wanted, but his team slowed down after jumping out to the early lead.

“Both teams are pretty good defensively, and I think just tonight everybody kinda executed what they wanted to execute, and we just came out on the short end of the stick,” Richards said. “We didn’t get to the free throw line in the first half like we probably needed to. Did that become a factor later in the game? I don’t know. We didn’t shoot a free throw until the second half. We settled. We made some buckets early and we settled and that hurt us.”

The teams traded buckets to end the first half, and headed to the break all locked up at 35 apiece. Both teams shot incredibly well in the first, with Mason shooting an outstanding 62.5 percent and Moeller shooting an unbelievable 70 percent.

A 3-pointer by Moeller junior Isaiah Payton gave the Crusaders energy to begin the third, and that 38-35 advantage would not be relinquished throughout the remainder of the game. Moeller started the third on a 7-0 run to take a 42-35 lead. Matt King fired back for the Comets, converting back to back 3-point plays to close the game to just a one point game.

The two teams continued to trade field goals, and a 2-pointer by Moeller senior Caleb Canter gave Moeller a 48-43 lead to end the third quarter.

The fourth quarter was characterized by both teams fighting for momentum, each countering every conversion that the other made. The 5-point lead Moeller began the fourth quarter with would be the largest advantage they held in the last eight minutes.

With 10 seconds remaining, the Crusaders executed a pretty inbound play in which McDowell received a pass while out of bounds before passing it back into the game of play. King committed his fifth foul in order to force Moeller to the free throw line on the other end. He finished with a game-high 24 points.

Down two, Puisis missed an off-balance three on the Comets’ next possession that fell out of bounds. Canter was fouled with one second left, and after he made one of two free throws, Mason senior Ben Schutte attempted a full court game-tying shot that bounced off the backboard only a few feet from the basket.

Although this was only the second time the Comets and Crusaders met in boys basketball, the Nutter Center at Wright State had the atmosphere of bitter rivals. King said this is largely because of Moeller attracting Mason students as well as the fact that many students knew one another, including him and McDowell.

“Me and Keegan are best friends outside of (basketball), just in life,” King said. “It was kinda weird playing him. A lot of Mason kids go to Moeller so that’s where the rivalry comes from. We’re just really competitive, both teams, so I think any time two really competitive teams go at it, it’s going to be a rivalry.”

Richards said this group of seniors was special because of their significant success over the last four years.

“This senior group is extremely special,” Richards said. “There’s not many programs, teams, players that can say they’ve been a part of (77) wins like Eddie and Matt in the last four years which obviously is a school record. Nobody else has ever come close to that. It’s not just the wins it’s about how they go about it that’s special. They are just class acts. And not just those two. Matt DeLotell and Carlos (Lewis) and Ben Schutte are the same way. Maybe they weren’t on varsity when they had those wins, but at the same time they were on a JV was going 20-0 and 19-0 and there’s two years. Like we said, we made one step closer this year and hopefully this group that’s coming back with our young freshman and sophomore and junior class will understand that hey, that’s still not good enough, we need to make another step.”

King, a four-year varsity player and three-year starter, said his teammates are like his family and that he’ll cherish his playing time at Mason.

“They’re my brothers, each and every one of them,” King said. “The whole team, honestly. All the seniors, I love every one of them, and I’m going to miss playing with them.”

King, who has signed to play at Ohio Dominican, led all scorers with 24. Puisis contributed 10 while Schutte and Lewis both had six. That group of seniors end their careers having recorded 77 wins to just 14 losses over four years.

Photos by Tanner Pearson.