Young Comets not missing a beat following departure of one of all-time greats
Cody Allgor | Staff Writer
“Down year,” says who?
Last year’s season marked the end of Sammie Puisis’s high school basketball career, one in which she scored a total of 1,476 points, finished her senior year as a McDonald’s All-American, lead the Comets to multiple deep state tournament runs, and ultimately committed to powerhouse Florida State where she now plays.
On the other hand, the end of last season also marked the beginning of a new era for the Comets. This year, eight freshmen take the court for the girls’ varsity basketball team.
To say Mason is off to a hot start this year would be an understatement. The Comets have matched last year’s start at 9-4, are 8-1 in the Greater Miami Conference, with big early season wins over Riverdale and Lakota East.
Head Coach Rob Matula said that even though the Comets’ offensive system rarely changes, last year was more dependent on Puisis, but Matula said that now they have returned to the traditional offense that he hopes will continue to make the team more efficient.
“We don’t change a whole lot from year to year,” Matula said. “Last year we did run a lot of our offensive sets through Sammie and I don’t know if that was good or bad for our style. But this year, we’ve kind of gotten back to where we’re spreading the ball a little bit more out and we are depending on all of our kids to score, which I think helps us be a little bit more dynamic.”
This class of freshmen has had to step it up and they have. Margo Mattes leads the team in points through 13 games with 15.8 points per game, Gabby Razzano is second on the team in rebounds, and Amanda Barned plays a significant role off the bench.
Mattes has been dominant in her first high school season and is the fourth leading scorer in the GMC. Mattes said that although people believed that there would be a drop off in the program with the loss of the previous senior class, it didn’t stop her drive to be just as successful.
“After we lost a lot of bigger players like Sammie, I think a lot of people thought there was going to be a drop-off,” Mattes said. “I was kind of expecting that as well, especially since half the team is freshmen. But then we all knew that we had to step up to the plate and make up for what was lost.”
With the Comets being so young, senior leadership from seniors Hannah Carlin, Alanna Carter, and Megan Wagner is more than important. Matula said that the seniors are doing an incredible job being great role models and leaders for all of the freshmen.
“We have three seniors that are tremendous in regards to being leaders and trying to exemplify what our program is about and through their great leadership,” Matula said. “And our freshmen are latching on and saying, ‘Okay, this is the way it’s going to be done around here.’ And they’re listening, they’re their actions are speaking for what our seniors have shown.”
In the past, the Mason Girls Basketball program has been very successful, and with that success comes expectations to consistently win every year. Freshman forward Gabby Razzano said that this year, they want to take thos expectations head-on, and the Comets aren’t holding back.
“Everyone expects certain teams to lose and everyone expects certain teams to win,” Razzano said. “And I would hate to be like, ‘Oh, well, we don’t want that pressure. So we just want everyone to expect us to lose.’ We want people to think that we can win every game. So yes, it’s pressure, but it’s the pressure we want.”
On most varsity teams, one of the biggest struggles is generally the underclassmen getting situated with the rest of the team. However, with over 60% of the team being freshmen, the Comets are in a unique situation. Razzano said that the benefit of most of the Comets being the same age is that they have played together throughout the years and knew each other well before being on Varsity.
“All the freshmen have been playing together for a while, so we’re used to playing with each other,” Razzano said. “And it’s good to be playing together because we’ve been together for so long. It’s a lot more comfortable to be with people you know.”
While there may be a stigma that with more age comes maturity and understanding of the game, the Comets know that their level of talent and development disproves the idea that a team must be ‘tenured’ to win. Mattes said that with the game of basketball having little change throughout the years, it helps bridge the age-gap and let the team focus on playing the game.
“You don’t have to worry about if you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior,” Mattes said. “It’s just about playing. I mean, the game is still the same from eighth grade to high school. It’s not worrying about, ‘oh, this person’s in this grade and this person is in this one’ it’s just doing what you can to help the team.”