Jeff Wallner reports:
Mason senior forward Kayla McDowell eclipsed 1,000 career points on Saturday afternoon. But Comets head coach Rob Matula said the milestone doesn’t tell the whole story of McDowell’s career.
“She’s so much more than just a scorer,” Matula said. “She worked hard at expanding her game. She’s improved handling the ball. She’s not just a back-to-the-basket player.”
McDowell scored 19 points on Saturday giving her 1,013 for her career, as Mason, ranked No. 1 in the Enquirer Division I coaches’ poll, defeated No. 5 Lakota West, 54-41.
She reached 1,000 points on a rebound and layup with 7:06 remaining in the third quarter. The game was stopped momentarily as fans from both teams applauded, and Mason fans and bench players held up green “1,000” signs.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” said Matula of McDowell’s 1,000-plus points. “It doesn’t happen often. She’s my second (1,000-point scorer) in 15 years of coaching. It’s certainly a testament to her hard work.”
McDowell, who scored 14 points in the second half, appeared humbled by the planned celebration, which included replacing the ball as a keepsake. “I didn’t think it was going to be that big of a deal,” she said. “I just wanted to get it over with. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. I love this group of girls. They work so hard to get me the ball.”
The Comets, ranked No. 3 in the state poll, also got 10 points from Sydney Neal to improve to 14-0. Rachel Tomasic scored 12 points for Lakota West on four 3-pointers.
McDowell, who has signed with the University of Missouri, entered Saturday averaging 16.3 points. But Lakota West’s defense made things difficult for her early in the game.
With Lakota West’s defense collapsing around her, McDowell scored just one point in the first quarter. Her first field goal came early in the second quarter on a fast-break layup.
McDowell had just five points in the first half, three from the free throw line.
The Comets were just 4 of 13 from the free throw line in the first half as the Firebirds trailed just 25-20 at halftime.
McDowell’s milestone layup in the third quarter seemed to energize the Comets who extended their lead with a 6-0 run. Consecutive baskets by McDowell gave Mason its largest lead, 35-25.
Tomasic hit a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter for the Firebirds to keep the game close.
McDowell responded with eight points in the third quarter helping Mason take control. She finished with nine rebounds and four assists.
“She’s got a heart as big as a basketball,” said Matula. “I could tell she was nervous. She really wanted to get this out of the way.”
Mason (14-0, GMC 9-0) – Ammons 2 0 5, Gunn 2 1 5, Herren 1 0 3, McDowell 7 5 19, Neal 4 1 10, Mason 3 0 6, Melinick 1 0 2, Van Kluenen 1 2 4. Totals: 21 9 54.
Lakota West (10-3, 6-3) – Staples 3 0 8, Cannatelli 2 2 7, Carter 2 0 4, Tomasic 4 0 12, Wasan 4 2 10. Totals: 15 6 41.
Halftime: Mason 25- 20. 3-pointers: M 3 (Herren, Neal, Ammons), LW 5 (Tomasic 4, Cannatelli)