EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles on the second annual Ohio Valley Hoops Classic, Nov. 27-28 at Wilmington College’s Fred Raizk Arena. Twenty teams from around the area will converge on the WC campus to compete in this year’s event.
Mason vs. Dublin Jerome Friday, 6:15 p.m.
Both the Mason Comets and the Dublin Jerome Celtics spent time ranked in the top three in Ohio Div. I basketball last season. Both teams return the nucleus of those squads, so it is easy to see why this could be one of the best matchups on tap for this year’s Ohio Valley Hoops Classic.
Coach Jamie Pearson’s (AP Div. I co-Coach of the Year) Celtics set a school record with 24 wins (3 losses) and earned the school’s first district championship in 2014-15. Jerome returns its top three players — 6-3 guard Mason Baich, point guard Steve Stavroff and 6-6 forward Colton Irion.
Baich has already surpassed the 1,000 point mark in his career and averaged 16.6 per game last season. Stavroff joins Baich as a three-year starter. He led the team in scoring last year with 16.7 per game. Jumping jack Irion averaged 13.4 points per game, while pulling down 6 rebounds.
Veteran coach Greg Richards led the Comets to a 20-2 record last season, going undefeated at 19-0 before losing in the regular season finale to Lakota East in double overtime.
Mason won the always tough Greater Miami Conference. The Comets lost leading scorer Cameron Arminio, but return a strong nucleus of their own.
Kyle LaMott (6-3 forward) was an all-league performer. He is joined by 6-5 junior forward Matt King (17th ranked junior in state, according to Prep Hoops Ohio), and point guard Eddie Puisis. Both King and Puisis were all-league selections a year ago. Add to that mix a talented group from last year’s 19-1 JV squad and it is a safe bet to say the Comets will have another stellar year.
Both Richards and Pearson were excited to face each other in the opener.
“Playing a team of Jerome’s caliber will give us a good gauge of where we are early in the season,” said Richards, a former baseball coach at Clinton-Massie.
Said Pearson, “We’re excited to participate in an event of the magnitude of the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic. Any time you get a chance to play in an event with the top teams in Ohio and the Midwest, you jump at the chance. We look forward to the opportunity to compete against Mason. We have a lot of respect for coach Richards’ program. We followed them and their great success last season. We’ll need a great effort on both sides of the court to stay with the Comets.”
The real winners in this game would appear to be the fans. Both teams are top 10 caliber and both are capable of making a deep tournament run. Jerome relies heavily on its deadly outside shooting and fast-paced offense, while the Comets stake their fortunes on their rugged man-to-man defense. So, the outcome could very well be decided by which team is able to impose its will.
Both teams feature outstanding players. Jerome’s Irion can absolutely jump out of the gym. Mason’s LaMott is extremely athletic also. Baich of Jerome is a combination of exceptional shooter and very athletic. Mason’s King is a great combination of size and shooting ability.
The coaches are an interesting contrast. Richards is a grizzled veteran who has quietly built Mason into a powerhouse basketball program over the last 10-12 years. Pearson has stormed onto the scene in his third season as head coach at Jerome, leading the team to unprecedented heights last year while pulling in many coaching awards.