Thursday, February 22, 8:00 at the Mason County Fieldhouse.
A big mismatch on paper, but we found out last night that they play the games for a reason. Bracken County (5-23, 1-15 region) took advantage of the district draw (rather than seeding) and pulled a rabbit out of the hat against Saint Patrick. Trailing by 2, the game looked to be over on a ball out of bounds as the horn sounded at the end of regulation. After review, two-tenths of a second was put back on the clock, Tad Fisher converted a tip-in at the horn, and Bracken went on to win in overtime. The win gave the Polar Bears consecutive wins for the first time this season as well as its first win in the 10th region.
In the first district semi, Mason County had little trouble dispatching the Augusta Panthers; racing out to a 19-point lead at halftime and never looking back. Leevi Dunaway scored 38 points, including 3-6 from distance and 19-23 from the charity stripe.
This two teams met in mid-December, with the Royals winning at Augusta 69-45. A lot has changed since then for the Royals. Mason County led by just 6 at the half, but pulled away in the third quarter. Caleb Boyd scored 11 and Jayden Stewart had 15 in that one, and neither is now with the team. Center Dalton Perkins' availability (concussion) is questionable. The Polar Bears were led by Tad and Tanner Fisher with 14 and 9.
Mason County is led in scoring on the season by Leevi Dunaway (20.0, 5.5 RPG), Jaylen Lofton (11.4, 7.3 RPG) and Malcolm Devine (8.8, and now starting). Xylon Frey and freshman Jeremiah Jones are the other two projected starters if Perkins is unable to return, and 6th man Carson Brammer connects on over 40% from distance.
The Bears are paced by Tanner and Tad Fisher as well as Mason Tucker, while senior big man Trey Deaton has had a solid season in the post - connecting on nearly 56% of his field goals and averaging over 6 RPG.
Coach Hinson will almost certainly try to establish tempo much as he did in the St. Patrick game, while the Royals want to run and then press after made shots. Can Bracken slow the game down, stay in it and pull another rabbit out of the hat, or will Mason be able to speed things up? I look for the Bears to come out in zone and dare the Royals to make threes; and if they eventually force the Bears to abandon the zone, Dunaway and Lofton will penetrate to the basket. If Mason comes out cold, things may get interesting.
Mason County 63
Bracken County 55