By Mark Schmetzer, Enquirer contributor
The Mason Comets went into Tuesday night’s Greater Miami Conference opener against Lakota East leading the “others” receiving votes in the Enquirer’s Division I coaches’ poll, two votes behind No. 10 Withrow.
If Mason keeps playing as well as it did against the No. 3 Thunderhawks, it soon will have a number to the left of its name.
Senior Adam Thomas scored 13 points and junior Cameron Arminio tied his career high with 12, according to the Greater Miami Conference website, as the Comets built an 18-point lead and fended off a Lakota East comeback for a 60-51 win at Mason.
“We haven’t gotten a lot of hype,” Thomas said. “I think we were picked to finish like eighth in our league. Our goal is to make a statement every night.”
“We have a lot of guys in their first year on varsity, and they’re trying to make a statement,” said Mason coach Greg Richards, who logged his 250th career win.
Junior guard Mitchell Mays led three Thunderhawks in double figures with 20 points, but they couldn’t overcome Mason’s 32-21 rebounding advantage.
“There’s a little more to it than that, but you could see we had opportunities in the second half to get close, but we couldn’t get the rebound,” Lakota East coach Wally Vickers said. “It’s a concern. It has been an issue. It’s something we work on in practice, but sometime, players question the validity of what you’re saying until you have a game like this.”
Mason led 14-6 with 1:02 left in the first quarter.
Thomas’s bucket with 11 seconds before halftime allowed the Comets to take a 34-19 lead into the locker room, their largest lead of the half. Thomas, who scored just seven points in Mason’s 67-45 season-opening win over Lebanon, finished the half with 12 points.
Arminio sank a 3-pointer early in the third quarter to give Mason its largest lead, 37-19, before Mays sank two 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the third quarter to help Lakota East cut Mason’s lead to five points, 39-34, with 1:55 left in the quarter.
The Thunderhawks could get no closer.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Thomas’s 6-foot floater from the right baseline that slipped through the net at the buzzer to give Mason a 16-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Comets took possession with 33.8 seconds left and worked the clock down before Thomas drove from the top of the key to the spot from which he launched his shot.
“That play was indicative of the night,” Vickers said.
STAR OF THE GAME: Arminio, who went 5-of-6 from the free-throw line in the final 43.2 seconds to help Mason seal the win.
VIEW FROM THE SIDELINE: Richards on his 250th career win: “It just means I’ve been doing this a long time. It means I’m old. We’ve had some pretty good players go through here and some great coaches. I think we’ve been doing it the right way.” ⬛
EXTRA POINTS: Both teams stay in GMC play with their next games. Lakota East plays Sycamore on Friday, while Mason travels to Oak Hills. … The Thunderhawks and Comets are scheduled for a rematch at Lakota East on January 24.
Lakota East (2-1) – Bah 1 3 5, Emrick 0 2 2, Norris 1 0 2, Mays 7 2 20, Lowry 4 4 12, White 4 2 10. Totals: 17 13 51.
Mason (2-0) – Thomas 6 1 13, Rice 1 2 4, Lamotte 1 1 3, King 2 3 9, Orlando 3 0 7, Beebe 2 0 4, Arminio 3 5 12, Hutchison 2 0 4, Cline 2 0 4. Totals: 22 12 60.
Halftime: Mason, 34-19. 3-pointers: L 4 (Mays 4), M 4 (King 2, Orlando, Arminio).
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