James Nosek | Press Box Perspectives Editor/Columnist
There is one stat that is to Mason’s advantage as they head into their rivalry game versus Kings tonight and that is they have won the last six meetings against the Knights.
Take that any which way you want but all I know Kings is going to be ready to finally end that streak, so maybe that stat is diminished a little. Kings is coming off a 78-59 win against Loveland in their first game which was highlighted by four double digit scorers.
This Kings Team looks like it can score points and really that is a perfect match for the Comets because as of late, they have been an offensive team to be reckoned with. They have put up 141 points in two games. Both seniors, JD Sprague and Darin Harris, are averaging over 18 points a game and don’t forget about Michael Van Kleunen who is putting in 10 points a game. Head Coach Greg Richards said he is impressed with how these three have scored this year but really what has pleased him, is the Comet’s 33 assists as a team, which is good for 2nd in the GMC.
“Scoring has been what everyone has expected from us,” Richards said. “We expect JD and Darin to step up as they are returning All-league players [but] I’m happy that we are averaging 16 assists a game. That is special to get it to the right people’s hands.”
You have to consider Mason-Kings as one of the best rivalries in the Cincinnati area; it is a battle every year against two old time FAVC teams.
“A lot of people don’t understand how long this rivalry has been going on,” Richards said. “We have been playing them since we both were a part of the original FAVC.”
It’s always great to have a cross-town rival to play every year and especially in Mason’s case because they haven’t lost against the Knights since 2005. Sure it has the label of rivalry but don’t get your hopes up for a bloody, slugfest like we saw this past weekend with Cincinnati and Xavier, Mason and Kings is a “friendly rivalry” as Richards puts it.
Richards and Kings Head Coach Mike Stevens have battled each other on more than one occasion, so they know each other pretty well, especially the last few years when Mason has been in the GMC. I can see why he would say “friendly rivalry,” these guys are good friends, even outside of basketball, but at the end of the day, both want to beat each other. There is no doubt that Richards wants to keep this winning streak going as it is a nice assurance to keep Mason superior to a FAVC team like Kings.
Both teams are coming off great wins, Mason’s especially, when they won their first GMC game against a pretty good Colerain team. Sure Mason turned it over 18 times and gave up 58 points but at the end of the day, the “W” is what matters and really if you look at it, Mason forced 18 turnovers as they continue to play their very fast paced style of basketball.
This a great move by Richards to incorporate this open offense; it helps when you have great scorers on your team that have more freedom to do what they do. You could say this might be a huge advantage for Mason against Kings because really after all the games they have played against each other, Kings is used to one thing: the flex offense.
Now I know the first game of the year Stevens was scouting Mason when they played Lebanon, so he has seen this new “opened-up” style of play, but to Mason’s credit, they have ran if so well in the first two games. It will be interesting to see how both teams guard each other after some high scoring games by both Mason and Kings, but you have to remember that one stat I said earlier as we head into tonight.
Sure we would all love to see a controversial fight, a bench clearing scuffle or even some classic Lakers-Celtics confrontations but in reality, for the Mason-Kings game, we are going to see two great rival schools go at it one more time, even if there is no blood.
NOS’ Angle: Mason should be 3-0 after this game. Kings will come out early and feed off their home crowd but if Mason can take control early then it will be over very quickly. I don’t think anyone on Kings can stop Sprague or Harris so look for them to have big games, possibly over 20 for both which is something that hasn’t happened this year. Mason might give up a lot of points tonight but I think Coach Richards and the boys are up to that as long as they get the win.