Bryan Hudnell | Staff Writer

Mason girls basketball lost a nail biter at home to the Lakota West Firebirds 64-61.

With West and Mason dominating the Greater Miami Conference, the game was moved to the middle school arena in order to accommodate all of the expected fans. Head coach Rob Matula said the matchup with the Firebirds was going to bring an intense atmosphere.

“I think everyone was aware of the magnitude of this game,” Matula said. “We’re two of the best teams in the city battling against each other. We just got to be able to handle big games like this one a little bit better.”

The Comets began the game with a 12-3 run to set the tone early. The Firebirds responded quickly by shortening the lead to six, as the score was 17-11 to end the first quarter.

Lakota West switched to a full court press in the second quarter to pressure the Comets as they brought it up the court. This allowed the Firebirds to force the Comets to make difficult passes and to make quick decisions, which often caused turnovers and fast break opportunities. Matula said the press gave his team some headaches.

“We have to get better in being able to handle the press and be able to slow down the game,” Matula said. They were able to make us force passes and turn over the basketball and it was a big factor in this game.”

Junior Sara Jones was able to make four threes in the first half which helped the Firebirds claw their way back. Despite Jones’ success, Matula said it was hard to key in on one specific player with a team as talented as Lakota West.

“They’ve got a lot of capable players,” Matula said. “Today was her day, and we needed to recognize and find her and make sure we have her covered up, and that’s just something overall we need to get better at.”

The Comets went into halftime with a small 30-28 lead. After the break, the Firebirds started the second half with a 5-0 run and gave them their first lead of the game. Later on into the third quarter, the Firebirds built a 34-30 lead and then led 36-32 before a 3-pointer by sophomore Sammie Puisis made it 36-35. Shortly after, Jones hit her final 3-pointer to stop Mason momentum midway through the third. The Firebirds led 45-41 to end the quarter.

It was the type of game Lakota West and Mason fans have become accustomed to seeing. In their last matchup, now-junior forward Tihanna Fulton made the final shot on Dec. 3 to give the Comets a 44-42 win over West.

The game came down to clutch free throws by junior Madisyn Oxley as she converted all four of her free throws to keep the Comets in check. With 18.7 seconds left, the Firebirds were able to get behind the Comet press and put the game on ice with a layup by junior Jasmine Ballew. The layup extended their lead to a 64-58 lead. Pusis was able to make a quick three to get it to within three points but the Comets ran out of time to foul the Firebirds before the final buzzer.

Pusis was the game’s leading scorer with a 29-point performance, a career high. She was 4-6 from beyond the arch and shot 56 percent from the floor.

The Comets schedule doesn’t get any easier as they take on Alter Monday. Matula told his players that the road would not get any easier as they take on the defending Division II state champions.

“We need to be able to pick ourselves up,” Matula said. “We just got to take care of the small things, and if we can, we’re going to be fine. It’s a journey, and we understand that it may not always go our way.”

View the article on the CSPN: http://thecspn.com/?p=41919


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