*Mason girls basketball story published on thecpsn.com on February 4th, 2014. The highly ranked Mason Comets played the Princeton Vikings on February 1st, as both teams attempted to preserve their undefeated streaks.*
It was a feeling of déjà vu for girls basketball this weekend as they suffered a 63-52 loss to the Princeton Vikings, ruining their perfect record.
After a tough physical and mental battle against the Vikings on Saturday, the final score was a heartbreaking similarity to the Viking victory that destroyed the Comets’ perfect streak on Senior Day last year.
According to head coach Rob Matula, the Comets weren’t expecting an easy fight.
“We knew that they were a great team,” Matula said.“We feel as though we are as great as they are. I mean I knew it was gonna be a back and forth affair and it was, and they did what they were supposed to do at the end and it kinda crept away from us.”
What was described as a “friendly rivalry” generated the pre-game atmosphere and further emphasized the emotional significance of this game. Princeton, along with local McDonald’s owners, recognized Viking senior Kelsey Mitchell for her selection on the McDonald’s All-American team. To tackle that force, Mason had an All-American candidate of its own: IUPUI recruit senior Jenna Gunn. Both teams were undefeated going in along with high state and national rankings, proving it truly was a fight between the best of the best.
“We’re not in charge of those rankings [so] all we do is go out and play,” Matula said. “We try to play every game the way we’re supposed to play. And I thought for the most part we did, but it was that 10 percent of the game that we didn’t, and they took advantage of it.”
After the tip-off, Princeton started the game and set the pace with a quick bucket by senior Chelsea Mitchell. Mason ran a more patient and strategic approach, running the clock and capitalizing on passes to find open shots from the lane. After about five minutes of play in the first quarter, the score was tied up, 8-8. A three-pointer by Kelsey Mitchell gave the Vikings an upper hand, and when it came down to the final buzzer, the Vikings were leading 15-11.
The second quarter continued to feel the excitement in the air. Senior Hayley Vorherr dished out a three for the Comets, but then the Vikings answered back right away with a three of their own, leading 18-14. Those three pointers turned out to be a lethal territory for the Comets as Princeton collected 12 of its points in the first half from behind the arc, while Mason could only get Vorherr’s lone basket. Another three by Princeton and then a free throw by sophomore Lauren Van Kleunen left the Comets down 23-26 at halftime.
After the half, two free throws from freshman Mackenzie Dixon and a layup by sophomore Jailyn Mason finally helped the Comets gain a very slim-margined lead, 27-26. Both teams played consistently close throughout the third quarter, reaching a climatic score of 36-36. But despite Mason’s best efforts, the fate of the Comets dramatically worsened towards the end of the quarter. By then, the Vikings had seized another lead, 44-38, and from that point on, the game continued to slip away from the Comets.
Kelsey Mitchell, who scored 26 points alone for the Vikings, seemed her most dominant in the fourth quarter and exhausted the Comets. Missed shots and layups ultimately hurt Mason the most in the fourth quarter, since overall they only hit 33 percent of their field goals in the game.
Before the momentum shift at the end of third quarter, the Comets seemed to show a lot of aggressiveness and hustle, out-rebounding the Vikings. By the end of the game, the Comets clutched 20 offensive and 17 defensive rebounds. Gunn and Van Kleunen were the stars for the Comets, both getting double-doubles. Gunn contributed 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Van Kleunen added 12 points and 11 rebounds. Their efforts along with those from the rest of the Mason lineup, however, weren’t enough to hold back the Vikings. They saw their first defeat of the season with a final score of 63-52.
Besides the 11-point difference, Matula said it was the little things that eventually got the best of the Comets.
“We just gave up some opportunities, some extra opportunities for them in regards that they got some offensive rebounds, and then they got some stick backs, and we fouled, and those 3 point plays extend[ed] the lead, so [those things made up] the difference,” Matula said. “Big-time parts of the game [are that] you gotta show up and get loose balls and be stronger. And we will, we’ll do that. They’ve got eight seniors on their team, and again they’re a great team. We’ve got some young kids that have to learn what it means to be physical…We’ve been at big games and we’ve just gotta learn how to get the little things done.”
After Saturday’s loss, the Comets are now second in the GMC to the Vikings. Next up, they face the Fairfield Indians.
“[We want to improve] with everything,” Matula said.“That’s our mantra. That’s what we believe in. We believe in getting better and we’ll go back in the gym, we’ll get better, and hopefully be able to make a run.”
The MBC News team captured highlights from the game.
*For more pictures and video interviews, check out: http://thecspn.com/?p=20579