Comets start postseason after another succesful season

Eric Miller | Sports Editor

After finishing up a 19-3 regular season on a 14 game winning streak, the Mason girls basketball team now has their sights set on the postseason.

Playing one of the most demanding schedules in the state of Ohio, Coach Rob Matula’s Comets earned a share of the Greater Miami Conference (GMC) championship for the second straight year. The Comets were seeded third in Cincinnati behind rival Lakota West, who the Comets split the season series with, and defending state champion Mount Notre Dame (MND). Matula said the postseason seeding draw went just about as expected.

“Going into it I thought we were going to be a two, three or four seed,” Matula said. “I was figuring, and we had to make some decisions on where we wanted to go. You’ve got to put your name on a line at some point and you have to pick and then everything falls in around it., then it’s one and done after that.”

Southwest Ohio is perennially one of, if not the strongest region for girls basketball in the state. 2017-18 has been no different. In the latest AP state poll, four of the top 13 schools were south of Dayton (Lakota West 2nd, Mason 9th, MND 10th, Beavercreek 13th). Matula said from year to year, southwest Ohio never fails to disappoint when it comes to talent.

“You think every year that the region might be down a little but the reality of the matter is that it’s always strong,” Matula said. “It starts from the sectional championship game. You’re going to play a team that’s very solid. The District championship obviously gets ramped up and when you get to the regional, this is no disrespect to the other parts of the State, that’s a Final Four in and of itself. For you to get out of that, over the last five to six years its proven that you’re going to have an opportunity to win a State championship.”

The Comets will open their postseason run on February 21 against the winner of Milford and Mount Healthy. Lurking on the other side of the sectional bracket are two teams, Turpin and Ursuline, that gave Mason fits in the postseason a year ago. In 2017’s sectional final, Turpin held a 19-9 halftime lead, before the Comets stormed back to take a 37-34 win. One game later, in the District final, Ursuline raced out to a 17-2 lead after one quarter before the Comets roared back to take a 34-31 win. Matula said he noticed immediately that the Spartans and Lions jumped right back in the Comets after their near misses a year ago.

“I thought, ‘well, they feel like they have an opportunity because they played pretty well against us last year,’” Matula said. “I mean we’re a different team, obviously big, got some different players. I know both of them are well coached, we’ll have to be prepared. I’ve watched video of both of them. We’re going to prepare and try to concentrate on the things we do well and try to take away a few things that they do.”

The Comets are no stranger to the postseason. Over their last two postseasons, Mason has won 10 playoff contests, two District championships, a Regional championship, with a Final Four and Elite Eight appearance to boot. Matula said for his team to have continued success this postseason, they must limit turnovers.

“We have to take care of the basketball,” Matula said. “In our three losses, that we’ve lost by a total of six points, we have had a stretch of about a minute to two minutes where we did not take care of the ball. Against good teams, that’s all it takes when it comes down to one or two possessions. I think in big games, big times we’ve got to take care of the ball.”

The Comets road to Columbus is filled with plenty of potential roadblocks. From Turpin and Ursuline in the sectionals, to a possible District matchup with Dayton number one seed Beavercreek and regional rematches with MND and Lakota West. Matula said his team’s postseason success will be determined by defense and the little things.

“Defensively we have to be like we’ve been all year,” Matula said. “Man-to-man we’ve been very stout. I think we’ve got to go downhill. When we’re going downhill and pushing the ball up the floor, we’re at our best because we move so well. I think it allows Sammie (Puisis) some freedom of getting open and allows our guards an opportunity to penetrate and make plays. The minute things are we’ve got to be able to rebound, we’ve got to be able to hit free throws and we’ve got to be able to hit layups: small things. If we can do those things and take care of those small things and get ourselves to our strengths, we’ll be fine.”