Mark Schmetzer reports:
By the last minute, Kayla McDowell could laugh off missing two free throws.
Mason was that much in control, thanks primarily to the senior and her running mate, junior Jenna Gunn.
McDowell scored 24 points, two short of matching her career high, and Gunn tied her’s with 23 as Mason rolled to a 64-48 win over Fairborn in a Division I district championship game Saturday at Harrison High School.
- Photos: Mason defeats Fairborn
“We always know where each other is,” said the Missouri-bound McDowell, with her piece of the net tied around the district championship medal draped around her neck. “We work well together.”
The two teamed up to give the Comets their biggest lead, with Gunn feeding McDowell with a deft no-look interior pass for a layup and, on the next trip down the floor, McDowell setting up Gunn for a layup that left Mason leading, 60-40, with 3:01 left in the game.
Those were two of the impressive 17 assists Mason racked up on 26 field goals, a ratio that didn’t surprise coach Rob Matula.
“We always do a nice job of being unselfish,” he said. “That’s what makes us a team. We never focus on one person.”
Mason (22-1), the Enquirer’s Division I coaches’ poll champion and the No. 4 team in the Associated Press Division I statewide poll, advanced a regional semifinal matchup on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Wright State University’s Nutter Center with the winner of Saturday’s game between Ursuline, the Enquirer’s fourth-ranked team, and Kettering Fairmont, the No. 2 team in the state.
The Comets lost to Fairmont in last year’s regional championship game.
Mason never trailed Fairborn, which entered the game riding a 15-game winning streak, after Gunn scored on a layup to give the Comets a 6-4 lead with 5:54 left in the first quarter.
“We expected to win,” McDowell said. “We know our defense can stop anybody.”
McDowell scored 12 points in the first quarter to lead Mason to an 18-14 lead.
It was Gunn’s turn in the second quarter. She scored eight points, including two free throws with 2:34 left to give the Comets a 34-21 lead before Fairborn shaved it to 38-26 by halftime.
Mason’s defense limited the Skyhawks to seven points in the third quarter while leading by as many as 17 points, 45-28, on a Gunn free throw with 2:12 left in the quarter.
The Comets, who led the Greater Miami Conference by allowing opponents an average of only 32 points per game, limited Fairborn (22-3) to 36 percent shooting (9-for-25) in the second half after the Skyhawks shot 55.6 percent (10-of-18) in the first half.
Mason pulling away left McDowell enough of a comfort zone to look over at Matula with a bemused smile after missing two free throws with 47.1 seconds left in the game.
“It wasn’t too big a thing at the time,” she said, offering the same type of grin. “If we’re going to keep winning games, I have to play better and make my free throws.”
Fairborn (22-3) – Redmon 2 1 6, Patton 3 0 7, Bennett 2 0 4, Gassion 6 2 16, Patterson 4 1 9, Profitt 2 2 6. Totals: 19 6 48.
Mason (22-1) – Herren 1 0 3, Mason 2 0 4, McDowell 11 2 24, Ammons 2 0 5, Neal 1 0 3, Van Kleunen 1 0 2, Gunn 8 7 23. Totals: 26 9 64.
Halftime: Mason, 38-26. 3-pointers: F 4 (Gassion 2, Redmon, Patton), M 3 (Herren, Ammons, Neal).