By Mark Schmetzer, Enquirer Contributor
Since Mason joined the Greater Miami Conference for the 2007-2008 season, the Comets’ girls basketball series with Lakota West has been defined by streaks.
The Firebirds won the first four games, while the Comets won the next five. Only two of the games have been decided by fewer than double figures, both of them Firebird wins.
Wednesday night at Lakota West in the Greater Miami Conference opener for both teams, the Firebirds got a little closer, but not close enough to snap the Comets’ streak. Mason senior Jenna Gunn and freshman Makenzie Dixon each scored 12 points as the Comets came from behind to edge Lakota West, 45-39, in overtime.
Gunn gave Mason (3-0), the No. 3 team in the Enquirer’s Division I pre-season coaches poll, the lead for good and Dixon made four free throws in the last 1:20 as the Comets outscored No. 2 Lakota West (2-1), 8-2, in the overtime.
“That was a huge game for us,” Dixon said. “It’s exciting.”
Lakota West sophomore Nia Staples led both teams with 15 points and junior Lauren Cannatelli added 11 for the Firebirds.
Mason fought back from a seven-point second-quarter deficit to lead – briefly – by two points before the Firebirds regained a 20-18 halftime lead.
The Comets staged an even more impressive comeback to force overtime. They trailed by eight points, 33-25, with 4:33 left in regulation before Gunn capped a 10-2 run with two free throws to tie the game.
“It was just heart,” Dixon said. “We believed in ourselves.”
Staples sank a 15-footer from the right elbow with 56 seconds left to return the lead to Lakota West, but Gunn scored on a layup with 35 seconds left for a 37-37 tie, setting up Mason’s second straight overtime win. The Comets edged No. 6 Winton Woods, 46-45, on Monday.
“This is back-to-back games when we’ve been down,” Mason coach Rob Matula said. “They just believe. It’s a program thing. They come, they go, they buy into what we’re about. I don’t know how they were standing. They were just tired, but they kept digging.”
Play of the game: Lakota West junior center Arianne Whitaker rebounding two of her own missed shots and scoring on the third while getting fouled to give the Firebirds a 22-18 lead with 5:36 left in the third quarter.
Star of the game: Gunn, who scored eight of her points after halftime, tying the game twice in the last 1:12 and giving Mason the lead for good.
View from the sideline: Lakota West coach Andy Fishman on the Firebirds’ inability to handle Mason’s press in the fourth quarter: “It was the difference in the game. We didn’t execute. At critical times, some players who have been successful in the past in those situations failed to execute. The girls have to learn how to close out games in pressure situations.”
Extra points: Lakota West, which opened the season with three games against teams ranked in among the top seven teams in the Enquirer’s Division I pre-season coaches poll, are scheduled to play a GMC game at unranked Sycamore on Saturday at 2 p.m. before traveling to No. 1 Princeton on Wednesday. The Comets, who opened with wins over No, 8 Talawanda and Winton Woods, are due to play a home conference game against unranked Middletown on Saturday. … Mason and Lakota West are scheduled to play again on January 11 at Mason.
Mason (3-0) – Vorherr 1 0 3, Mason 2 0 4, Mowbray 3 0 6, Dixon 3 5 12, Gunn 3 6 12, Van Kleunen 2 1 5, Campbell 1 1 3. Totals: 15 13 45.
Lakota West (2-1) – Wells 2 1 5, Staples 6 2 15, Cannatelli 3 4 11, Whitaker 3 0 6, Carter 0 1 1, Kivell 0 1 1. Totals: 14 9 39.
Halftime: Lakota West, 20-18. 3-pointers: M 2 (Vorherr, Dixon), L 2 (Staples, Cannatelli).