Milford used its size and experience to edge past a pesky Kings squad for a critical Eastern Cincinnati Conference road win.
The Eagles trailed most of the game but outlasted the Knights 55-49 to start a five-game road stretch to close out 2012. Milford had an edge with four senior starters and two sizeable forwards, while Kings started no seniors and lacked size inside.
Senior forward and Bowling Green commit Garrett Mayleben led Milford with 14 points, and senior guard Brennan Farrell added 13.
Kings overcame some sloppy play early to lead most of the game before Milford (4-2, 3-1 ECC) pulled away in the closing minutes. The Eagles’ second-half defensive adjustments and clutch free-throw shooting proved to be the difference in what coach Joe Cambron described as a crucial game.
“Our backs were against the wall,” Cambron said. “This was an absolute must-win for us to even have a shot at a conference championship.”
Kings built an early lead by using it speed on the perimeter to open holes in the paint. Sophomore guard Cameron Fails and junior forward Jamison Williams led the charge as the Knights settled into an offensive rhythm and opened a nine-point first-half lead. Milford responded to cut the lead with a few well-executed pick-and-roll plays but still trailed by five at halftime.
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.”
Mason senior Lauren Wood capped off her season with a successful run at the Nike Cross Nationals Saturday in Portland, Ore.
Wood placed 65th out of 194 runners over the 3.1-mile course in 20 minutes, 58 seconds. Sarah Baxter of California won her second consecutive Nike title in 19:17. Wood placed fifth at the Ohio Division I state meet last month to lead Mason to its first team championship.
The Nike Cross Nationals features 22 teams and 45 individuals who that have qualified through regional meets across the country.
What’s new: Senior Nathan Bonzella, a 7-foot-2 center, is playing his first year of high school basketball.
Key players: Junior guard Josh Woody, sophomore forward Jared Wheeler, junior forward Matt James, senior center Nathan Bonzella, senior forward Nathan Pucke, senior forward Jacob Himes.
Outlook: Stevens says this year’s team is the tallest in his tenure, and with Bonzella it’s quite possibly the most talented squad in school history. “Yes, he’s a legit 7’ 2”, we measured him last year in my history class,” says Stevens of Bonzella, who joins Pucke, 6-foot-6, and Himes, 6-foot-8, in an intimidating front court. Woody and Wheeler are the Knights’ top returnees, along with James who returns after missing last season with a back injury.
Mason’s Lauren Wood is headed to Portland, Ore. Saturday to compete in the Nike Cross Nationals.
The Mason girls’ team was not chosen as one of the four at-large teams after placing fourth at the Midwest regional. The Comets also won the Division I state title this year, their first, beating second-place Centerville by 100 points.
The top two teams in each of the nine regional meets automatically qualified for the finals, plus the four at-large teams.
Senior Wood, however, will be going as an individual. The top five finishers from the regional who weren’t on qualifying teams are invited to the finals. Wood was seventh at the regional but one runner declined the invitation. Another spot opened when New Trier (Ill.) was added as an at-large team, taking with it the runner who placed sixth, one spot ahead of Wood.
The St. Xavier Bombers, which won the Division I state title on Nov. 3, received one of the four at-large bids to the national finals.
St. Xavier finished third in the boys’ race and Mason took fourth in the girls’ race Sunday afternoon at the Nike Cross Nationals Midwest regional meet in Terre Haute, Ind.
The meet, held at the LaVern Gibson championship course, is one of nine regional competitions around the country and included 31 girls’ teams and 37 boys’ teams from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Michigan.
The top two teams and top five individuals not on qualifying teams in each region automatically qualify for the national finals to be run Dec. 1 in Portland, Ore. There will also be four at-large teams invited to each race. Those teams will be selected by a committee based on season-long resumes and performances
St. Xavier, which won the Division I state title on Nov. 3, is ranked No. 16 nationally by MileSplit.com and was undefeated this season prior to Sunday. Mason won the girls’ Division I state title, its first state championship, and is ranked No. 24 nationally by MileSplit.com. Only three of the regionals have been run thus far so neither team will know its fate until Nov. 24.
“The tough part will be having to sit around for two weeks, trying to train and not knowing if we’re going,” said St. Xavier coach Mike Dehring.
Temperatures were warm with overcast skies but winds gusted at more than a reported 20 mph, making for a lot of running into headwinds and slower times for many runners. There were 286 runners who completed the girls’ race, while 346 completed the boys’ race.
No. 12-ranked York (Ill.) won the boys’ race with 95 points, followed by Carmel (Ind.) with 162 and St. Xavier with 211. Mason’s boys placed 14th with 389 points. The Comets were second to St. Xavier at the state meet. Junior Michael Hall led St. Xavier in 30th place overall and 14th in the team race. Juniors Tom Clark and Zac Thompson came in 59th and 60th for Mason.
The Nike Cross Nationals is in its ninth year and York has now qualified for all nine finals. St. Xavier had beaten Carmel earlier in the season, a fact that Dehring hopes the at-large selection committee will take into consideration.
Top-ranked Carmel won the girls’ race with 91 points, followed by Naperville (Ill.) North with 107 points and New Tier (Ill.) with 125 points and then Mason with 151 points. Senior Lauren Wood continued her impressive postseason by placing seventh overall and missing an automatic individual berth by two places. Because race winner Ashley Erba of Indiana declined her spot and the runner who placed sixth, one spot ahead of Wood, is from New Tier there is still the possibility of Wood getting that trip to Portland should New Tier be awarded one of the at-large berths.
Wood’s fourth-place finish at the state meet led the Comets to a 100-point victory.
“We ran pretty well,” said Mason coach Chip Dobson. “Lauren has been outstanding. This is a tough field but she went out after it.”
Two other local runners placed in the top 30 of the girls’ race. Sycamore senior Sam Siler came in 15th overall, while Colerain senior Kristen Seiler was 29th.
Crossbars and posts can be a goalie’s best friend. If not for those, the Mason Comets appeared primed to win the Ohio State Girls Division I State Soccer Championship here Friday night.
Instead, they lost to Perrysburg 1-0, in the wildest, craziest, keep-coming-at-you state championship soccer game Columbus has seen in a long while.
“Only nine saves?” somebody in the press box asked afterward. “It seems like she made nine hundred.”
The reference was to Penn State-bound senior goalie Chloe Buehler, who had her hands full –literally.
What she couldn’t pick off, the posts and crossbars did.
There were two such occurrences in the first half, two more in the second.
“They (the Comets) had two or three opportunities that I thought for sure were going to end up in the net,” said Perrysburg coach Jorge Diaz, whose team finished 23-0-0, ranked first in the state and second nationally. “A hand here, a crossbar there. Luck was with us.”
Diaz singled out Mason’s “Number 8″ and “Number 15,” as being particularly hard to stop, and said nobody came at his team all year the way Mason did.
“Overall, they had a tougher bracket to get here than we did, although the last couple of games – Strongsville and Medina – were tough for us,” Diaz said.
No. 8, that would be Jami Pfeifer, a senior forward.
“Give her an inch, and she’s going to take it all the way through,” Diaz said.
No. 15, that would be Jill Vetere, a sophomore forward.
“I had somebody on her the second half, but the coach was moving her from one side to the other, attacking,” Diaz said.
The Mason girls knew they were going to have their hands (and feet and heads and minds) full with Perrysburg’s Maddy Williams.
And, did they ever.
To their credit, they largely negated her except for the successful first-half penalty kick with 15 minutes to go in the first half that was the difference.
Who can blame the Comets for having fouled her? At the time, she was engaged in a whirling dervish extravaganza in front of the goal, in which the Comets did everything to dislodge the ball from her. Finally, wham!.
The feeling one had was at that very instant was that Williams was going to score unless somebody fouled her.
“My attitude is you have to finish your chances, because you never know if that might be the only one you get,” Williams said.
And so, they fouled her, and she scored, anyway.
It was her 48th goal of the season.
“I liked her attitude inside the 18,” Mason coach Andy Schur said. “She was so persistent. You maybe could knock her off the ball, but she was right back on top of you. And with her back to the goal, really tough to defend.”
Williams, too, agreed, that it was the Yellow Jackets night.
“We had luck on our side,” she said. “They (the Comets) have a really well-organized back line. They play great together. They’re physical, but not to the point it gets out of control.”
Other than that one goal Friday night, these were two very evenly matched teams at Crew Stadium. Mason was more the aggressor: 26 shots to Perrysburg’s 6; 9 shot to 5 on goal, respectively.
“The best team we’ve played,” Perrysburg’s Diaz said.
Mason beat three of the top 11 teams in the state to reach the state final, and finished 20-2-1.
Mason hadn’t given up more than two goals in any soccer game this season. Olentangy Liberty had scored three or more goals in 17 of its 21 games coming into Wednesday night’s Division I state semifinal at Miami Valley South Stadium.
Mason maintained its stat but it wasn’t enough to push the Comets to a state championship game appearance.
Senior forward Jared Robinson’s shot from 10 yards in front of the net found the back of the goal with 4:44 remaining in regulation to give Olentangy Liberty a 1-0 victory and send the Patriots back to the state final for a second straight season.
Mason, ranked No. 10 in the final state coaches’ poll, was playing in its first state semifinal. The Comets end their season 18-3-1. Second-ranked Liberty improves to 21-1 and will face unranked Sylvania Southview (17-3-2) Saturday night at 7 at Columbus Crew Stadium.
Robinson, who gave up playing for the Columbus Crew’s academy team to join continue playing for his high school team, mishit an initial shot attempt. The Mason defense couldn’t clear the ball, however, and it ended up back on his foot. Mason senior goalkeeper Pedro Diaz moved in the right direction but Robinson buried the shot into the upper left corner.
“It comes down to they were on us a lot of the time and they were going to get past us at some point,” said Diaz. “I think we gave 100 percent. It was wonderful. Everyone gave their best. We just got unlucky.”
Senior forward Jami Pfeifer scored one minute, 36 seconds into the first sudden victory overtime period Tuesday night to give Mason a 1-0 win against Pickerington North at Miami Valley South Stadium and send the Comets to the Division I state soccer finals for the first time in school history.
Pfeifer scored her 18th goal of the season with a blast from the right side about 15 yards away from the goal. The ball got past Pickerington North goalie Heather Laeufer in an instant and handed the Panthers (19-1-2) their first loss of the season.
“I was getting stormed by my team and the ball was in the net,” said Pfeifer. “I saw the ball go in, then my mind went blank and I just fell to the ground.
“I wasn’t sure where it was going. I was in the moment and it’s one of those things where you don’t know how it happens, it just happens.”
Mason will take its 20-1-1 records into Friday’s 7 p.m. state championship game at Columbus Crew Stadium against No. 1-ranked Perrysburg (22-0). The Comets were unranked in the final state coaches’ poll but in this tournament they have now beaten three ranked teams (No. 11 Troy, No. 7 Centerville, No. 5 Pickerington North) and avenged their lone loss of the season against Ursuline in the regional final.
Mason was making its first appearance in the state semifinals while Pickerington North was in its third state tournament. The Panthers were state runners-up in 2010.
Pickerington North had beaten No. 2 Dublin Coffman and No. 8 Dublin Jerome 1-0 each in its regional tournament. The regional final against Jerome went to two overtimes.
Mason senior Alex Lotton holds up the State Runner up Trophy with his Mason Comets teammates after finishing second to St. Xavier at the State Cross County Meet. (Tony Tribble for the Enquirer)
Kevin Goheen reports:
Watching as the St. Xavier runners crossed the finish line and then gathered at the end of the straightaway at National Trail Raceway, one would have thought a disaster had befallen the Bombers. There were looks of disappointment and confusion among the group.
That atmosphere quickly changed to exultation and jubilation when the final results of the boys’ Division I cross country meet were posted.
St. Xavier ran up to its billing as the No. 1-ranked team in the state by scoring 71 points to claim its fourth state title and lead a 1-2 Cincinnati finish Saturday afternoon. Third-ranked Mason took home second place with 123 points to beat Cleveland St. Ignatius by 13 points.
It is St. Xavier’s first state title since 2003 and the first for any area team since Mason won in 2008.
“Joy, relief and any kind of emotion you could imagine,” said St. Xavier coach Mike Dehring. “This has been nine years in the works but really two years where we challenged this group of seniors to be state champions. They responded very well.”
St. Xavier has now been to the state meet in 25 of the last 26 years but was driven all season by memories of last year’s sixth-place finish, when the Bombers believed they had a shot at winning.
Senior Jake Grabowski led St. Xavier and all area runners with a ninth-place finish in 15:37. Sam Wharton of Tipp City Tippecanoe won the individual championship in 15:09.
Senior Michael Momper was St. Xavier’s No. 2 runner, placing 22nd overall in 15:50, just ahead of junior Michael Hall (15:52) in 24th place, senior Alex Kuvin (15:54) in 30th and junior Evan Stifel (15:56) in 32nd place. Grabowski, Momper and Kuvin all ran personal best times.
“At state last year I had kind of a negative attitude, thinking about ‘when is this going to end?’ but in this race I stayed positive and told myself to dig deeper,” said Momper, who typically has been the team’s No. 4 or 5 runner this season.
Said Grabowski: “Throughout our four years it’s been ingrained in us, that expectation and goal of winning a state championship.”
Mason was led by junior Tom Clark (15:47) in 19th place and senior Alex Notton (16:03) in 41st place. Senior Connor Van Blaricom (16:06) and juniors Joey Stimler (16:10) and Zac Thompson (16:10) weren’t far behind.