FAIRBORN — For roughly two and a half quarters, Mason dictated the pace and had pulled to within a single point of Wilmington Saturday in a Div. I Southwest District championship game.
Over the final 10 minutes of the contest, Jarron Cumberland showed the Nutter Center crowd exactly why he’s the best prep player in the state of Ohio.
Cumberland rattled off 25 second half points and sparked a game-deciding 19-0 Hurricane run as Wilmington ran away from Mason, 63-38, to claim the school’s first district championship crown since 2009.
Wilmington led from the opening tip, by as many as 10 points in the first half before Mason whittled away at the deficit early in the third quarter. Behind the slashing ability of Kyle Lamotte, the Comets clawed back to within 28-27 with 2:40 remaining in the third quarter. That’s when the Cumberland show began for Wilmington.
The University of Cincinnati bound forward reeled off 23 points in roughly 8 minutes of game time and the Hurricane defense put the clamps on Mason.
Wilmington had advanced to the district championship game each of the previous years, but came up short in each game. Enough was enough for the 6-5 senior.
“Ever since I’ve been here, we had fallen short in this round,” Cumberland said. “This is my fourth year playing in this district game and we had always fallen short, but this is the year. We celebrated a little bit, but it’s not over.”
Wilmington (25-1) now advances to the Sweet 16 round in the Div. 1 state bracket and will face the Springfield-Moeller winner on Wednesday night at Xavier University. Wilmington defeated Springfield during the regular season, while Moeller handed the Hurricane its only loss of the season to date.
Nerves got the best of both teams early as each side struggled to make shots. Mason (22-2) was scoreless for nearly the first four minutes and managed only four first quarter points, all by Lamotte.
Wilmington led 13-4 after one quarter, but turnovers kept the Comets in the game. The Hurricane committed 10 first half turnovers, which enabled the Comets to hang around and MHS trailed only 22-16 at halftime despite connecting on only 6-of-18 shots in the opening half.
“I told our guys entering the postseason that there are three types of teams this time of year,” Wilmington head coach Mike Noszka said. “There are teams that are ready to turn in their uniforms. There are teams that stay the same. They are what they are. And there are teams that continue to keep improving every time out. We want to be the team that keeps getting better.”
To Noszka’s point, the Hurricane got better and better as this one went along, especially late in the third quarter and into the fourth. After Cumberland buried back-to-back 3s to get the game-deciding run started, fellow senior Cameron Stewart splashed a trey of his own as Wilmington turned a 28-27 game with 2:40 remaining in the third quarter into a 47-27 blowout with 4:40 left in the fourth.
Stewart, who has proven to be an excellent complimentary piece to Cumberland’s superstar play all season long, scored nine of his 16 points in the final quarter. Stewart also grabbed six rebounds from his point guard spot which was tied for team-high honors with classmate Alex Miller.
“When you play with a player like Jarron — he’s the best player in the state — you are going to get open looks,” Stewart said. “And when you get open looks, you have to knock them down.”
Stewart and Cumberland provided the majority of the Wilmington scoring as the senior duo combined for 51 points, single-handily outscoring the Comets. Cumberland finished the afternoon with 35 points on 11-of-21 shooting and also grabbed 5 rebounds. He had 3 assists, 3 steals and knocked down 4-of-8 from 3-point land.
Sophomore Dylan Beaugard chipped in with 6 points, but contributed most effectively on the defense end as the lightening-quick guard harassed Mason ball-handlers all game long. He added 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals, and also had numerous deflections on the defensive end.
“I think all of our experience makes a big difference. It wasn’t just about getting past the district game,” Noszka said. “We are battle tested. We don’t look at it like it’s a hump to get over. It’s more about us playing as well as we know we can.”
On Mason’s side, Eddie Puisis led the way with 11 points. Ben Schutte and Lamotte finished with 10 points apiece. The Comets struggled to shoot all game long, hitting on a mere 12-of-33 from the field, including 3-of-14 from 3-point range. Mason shot a dismal 11-of-22 from the free throw line, while Wilmington made 17-of-24.
March 5, 2016
@Wright State’s Nutter Center
Wilmington 63 Mason 38
(38) MASON (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Puisis 3-3-2-11 Haller 0-0-0-0 Schreiter 0-0-0-0 King 1-0-2-4 Lamotte 2-0-6-10 Lewis 1-0-0-2 Butler 0-0-0-0 Schutte 5-0-0-10 Fago 0-0-0-0 Knue 0-0-0-0 Bohno 0-0-0-0 Buddemeyer 0-0-0-0 Taylor 0-0-1-1 Hayner 0-0-0-0. TOTALS 12-3-11-38
(63) WILMINGTON (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Stewart 6-1-3-16 Miller 1-0-1-3 Beaugard 1-1-3-6 Cumberland 11-4-9-35 Wolary 1-0-0-2 Morris 0-0-0-0 Gauche 0-0-0-0 Griffith 0-0-0-0 Wright 0-0-1-1 Smith 0-0-0-0 Mansfield 0-0-0-0. TOTALS 20-6-17-63.
FIELD GOALS: M 12-33 (Puisis 3-9 Lamotte 2-5), W 20-40 (Cumberland 11-21 Stewart 6-11 Miller 1-1 Beaugard 1-3 Wolary 1-4)
3 PT FIELD GOALS: M 3-14 (Puisis 3-8), W 6-16 (Cumberland 4-8, Beaugard 1-2 Stewart 1-5 Wolary 0-1)
FREE THROWS: M 11-22 (Lamotte 6-11 King 2-2), W 17-24 (Cumberland 9-10, Beaugard 3-4, Stewart 3-6 Miller 1-2 Wright 1-2)
REBOUNDS: M-19 (Schutte 4 Lamotte 4 Puisis 3), W-28 (Stewart 6 Miller 6 Cumberland 5 Beaugard 4 Wolary 2 Mansfield 1 Wright 1)
ASSISTS: M-6 (Lamotte 2), W-12 (Stewart 4 Cumberland 3 Beaugard 3 Mansfield 1 Miller 1)
STEALS: M-3, W-7 (Cumberland 3, Beaugard 2, Stewart 1)
BLOCKED SHOTS: M-1, W-1 (Cumberland 1)
TURNOVERS: M-16, W-14
Reach Blake Haley via email [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @BeeLakeH