Mason County continues to show its growth with each passing game.
The Royals attacked the glass hard, shot well from 3-point range and used a 28-7 run in the first half to top Dixie Heights, 61-48, for their fifth straight victory.
“I’m very pleased with the direction we’re headed, but we have to be realistic, we’ve still got five more games before New Year’s,” Royals coach Buddy Biggs said. “It’s been like an NBA schedule lately, we practice, then play, practice then play again. Eventually we still need to get back on the practice floor and work on some things. Our defense and our rebounding won the game tonight and that’s what I’m pleased with.”
Caleb Boyd carried over his shot from Saturday against Louisville Male and hit six 3-pointers on the night, going for a career-high 20 points. Boyd had struggled with his shot the first couple of games, but seems to have found his touch and confidence in the past couple games.
“The past couple weeks I’ve just been staying after practice and getting some shots up, just trying to find my rhythm and get my confidence back up. That’s all it is, finding your rhythm and confidence,” Boyd said.
It was Boyd who got the Royals started with the first six points via two long range jumpers, he and teammate Jayden Steward would be vital in the Royals first half run as the two combined for 19 of the 28 points during the run, boosting Mason County to a 36-24 halftime lead.
“Caleb’s last two games he’s shot the ball really, really well. If he can continue that it will take a lot of pressure off of Leevi (Dunaway) and Jaylen (Lofton) constantly having to drive the ball. Everybody sagging on us and if we can kick it to a guy who’s going to knck it down that many times obviously it is going to make us more dangerous,” Biggs said.
The Royals held the Colonels to five points in the pivotal second quarter.
“We won a real grinder tonight. We knew they were going to grind, we ended up grinding too and we won a different way tonight. That’s important for this team to believe we can win at racehorse basketball, but if someone want to grind us, we showed we can win that way too,” Biggs said.
As the Royals maintained a comfortable cushion in the third quarter, it was Leevi Dunaway’s turn to get going in the fourth quarter, going on a personal 6-0 run to push the Royals lead back out to 14 at 54-40 with 4:45 to play.
On a rather quiet night for Royals leading scorers Dunaway and Jaylen Lofton (3 points), the growth of the team showed as Steward closed out the contest by scoring six of the Royals final seven points to end with 17 for the night, also adding 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season.
“To be a good team, that’s what we need. We can’t always say we need Jaylen and Leevi to go get us 20-25 a piece. That’s just unrealisitic, defenses are designed to stop them, coaches will study more tape, scout us more. Obviously they are the first two targets right now and other guys can step up and alleviate that pressure, we still have good chances to win ball games and the kids have bought into that,” Biggs said.
The win improved the Royals to 6-2 on the year with the US Bank Mike Murphy Classic on tap, hosting Highlands on Thursday and Pendleton County on Friday.
“The tournament is more than basketball. We obviously want to win but the whole two days is about a special person,” Biggs said of the late Mike Murphy. “There’s givers and takers in life and there’s participators and there’s watchers, Murph was a giver and a participator. He was such a great person not just for the program, but the whole community.”
The Colonels dropped to 2-6 on the year. Leading the way for them was Jabari Karim with 11 points, Tyler Schreck adding 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Neither team shot it well from the floor, the Colonels going 31 percent to the Royals 36 percent. The Royals did make the most of their opportunities from the outside, knocking down 50 percent of their 3-point attempts and getting to the line 21 times to the Colonels 10, leading the free throw advantage 14 to three. Mason County entered the game leading the state in rebounds per game at 44, and topped that mark tonight, outrebounding the Colonels 48-35.
LADY ROYALS 56, LADYCATS 46
It wasn’t pretty, but the Mason County girls’ basketball team got the job done Tuesday night at The Fieldhouse.
The Lady Royals overcame a lackluster start to eventually pull away from Newport, 56-46.
“We found a way to win and that’s the important thing,” Lady Royals coach Brad Cox said. “I’d rather win ugly then not win at all, but there’s some things we need to work on. We didn’t execute very well and gave up way too many offensive rebounds.”
AJ Reed paced three Mason County scorers in double figures with 14 points while Kara Moran returned from injury with 13 points and Victoria Brooks was back after a one-game absence to contribute 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
“Kara was a little rusty but is always going to play her hardest and play her heart out. I’m proud of her and having Victoria back is always going to help too,” Cox said.
A 2-3 Ladycats zone gave Mason County troubles early on as they led throughout the first quarter until the Lady Royals closed by scoring the final five points to take a 12-10 lead into the second.
The Lady Royals held a lead throughout the second but by no more than four as they’d enter halftime with a 27-24 lead. Mason County shot it at a 51 percent clip in the half to help offset the 11 turnovers they committed.
Building a 36-28 lead in the third quarter it looked as if the Lady Royals were starting to pull away, but the Ladycats kept fighting, getting back to within three before the two entered the fourth with Mason County leading 40-35.
Morgan McDay got Newport within two at 48-46 with less than two minutes to play on a putback, but they’d fail to score from there as the Lady Royals ended the contest on an 8-0 run to get back to the .500 mark at 4-4.
They’ll take on Lewis County Thursday in the US Bank Mike Murphy Classic at 8 p.m. and follow on Friday against Nicholas County at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s going to be two tough challenges because we have one day of practice and they both have four or five days of prep. It’s going to be a challenge and those are the type of games we need right now,” Cox said.
Newport dropped to 4-4 on the season and faces St. Henry on Friday.
The Ladycats were led by McDay’s 15 points and added seven rebounds. Mya Meredith chipped in 10 points and led Newport with eight rebounds.