Mark Schmetzer reports:
After leading for most of the game, Mason’s first girls’ basketball victory over Princeton in at least eight seasons was slipping away in the fourth quarter.
Vikings junior guard Jada Ballew connected on a putback to complete Princeton’s comeback from an 11-point deficit to a 40-40 tie with 6:34 left in their Greater Miami Conference game Saturday at Princeton.
Instead of folding, the Comets regrouped. Senior guard Sarah Ammons made a free throw 14 seconds later to give Mason the lead for good. Missouri-bound senior Kayla McDowell followed with two free throws with 5:50 left, helping the Comets put together a 12-1 run on their way to a 54-45 win over the No. 1 team in the Enquirer’s Division I coaches’ poll.
“I just think we’re a senior-led team,” said McDowell, who scored 14 points and played all but 30 seconds. “We just looked at each other and said, ‘This is not going to happen again.’ We pulled tight and stayed together.”
According to the GMC website, Mason had lost at least 11 consecutive games to Princeton, starting in Nov. 2004. The records don’t go back further, and Mason coach Rob Matula didn’t know the last time the Comets, the Enquirer’s No. 2 team, had beaten the Vikings.
“It is big,” Matula said. “It’s 1 vs. 2 in the city at their place. It’s huge. It’s a big win for us, but I’m not going to say it’s bigger than any other win.”
Junior guard Jenna Gunn logged a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds for Mason (7-0, 4-0 GMC), and Ammons also reached double figures with 11 points.
Junior center Carlie Pogue finished with a double-double for Princeton (5-1, 4-1) with 14 points and 12 rebounds while trying to help pick up the slack for the injured Kelsey Mitchell in the Vikings’ home opener. Princeton’s junior guard, generally considered to be the No. 1 player in the country in her class, missed her third consecutive game with a broken bone in her foot.
“I know people are going to make much out of Kelsey not being in there, but we’ve had some hard-fought games against them with her,” Matula said.
Mason’s most recent two losses to Princeton were by a combined nine points.
Vikings coach Jill Phillips, who was honored before the game after reaching 200 career wins Dec. 8 at Lakota East, was pleased to see her team come from behind, but wasn’t happy with the aesthetics of the game, especially the combined 39 turnovers, 20 by Mason.
The Comets outscored Princeton 25-14 in points off turnovers.
“I think we’re both veteran teams,” Phillips said. “At times, we looked like it. At times, we didn’t. I thought we fought hard. Our effort was there, but we never could get over the hump.”
Senior guard Sydney Neal sank a 16-foot jump shot from the right baseline with 4:38 left in the first quarter to give Mason a 6-5 lead. The Comets never trailed and enjoyed a 36-25 advantage after Neal connected on a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 6:23 left in the third quarter.
Princeton’s couldn’t have picked a better time to enjoy a long holiday break.
After playing Colerain in a conference game on Wednesday, the Vikings will be off until facing No. 2 McAuley on Jan. 3.
The break will give Mitchell’s left foot time to heal. The electrifying 5-foot-7 guard broke the fifth metatarsal in her left foot in Princeton’s 51-46 win at Lakota West on Dec. 1.
Mitchell was honored before Saturday’s game for reaching 1,000 career points.
Mason (7-0, 4-0 GMC) – Mason 2 0 4, McDowell 3 7 14, Ammons 3 5 11, Melinick 1 0 2, Neal 3 1 8, Van Kleunen 1 0 2, Gunn 4 5 13. Totals: 17 18 54.
Princeton (5-1, 4-1 GMC) – Sharman 3 1 8, Mitchell 2 2 6, Roper 1 0 3, Ballew 2 0 4, Hardin 4 0 8, Drake 1 0 2, Pogue 4 6 14. Totals: 17 9 45.
Halftime: Mason, 31-23. 3-pointers: M 2 (McDowell, Neal), P 2 (Sherman, Roper).