DAYTON, Ohio - With a medal around his neck and his voice quivering, Mason boys’ basketball coach Greg Richards fought back tears at UD Arena late Saturday afternoon.
Mason just defeated Centerville 44-38 in a Division I district final – the Comets’ first district title since 1994 when they were a Division II program.
While the players waited in line to take their turn at cutting down the net on the near side, Richards was surrounded by reporters. He insisted this district title was for the players. But the emotion said it all.
“It’s been a long time,” said Richards, whose team finished second in the Greater Miami Conference. “We talked about putting this year’s numbers up on the banner. We weren't able to do that in our league so we had do it somewhere else, so we chose today to do it.”
Senior Eddie Puisis had a game-high 21 points to lead Mason. Senior guard Ben Schutte added seven points and three assists. Senior Matt King had six points and six rebounds. Junior guard Tanner Knue had six points and seven rebounds.
PHOTO GALLERY: Mason 44, Centerville 38
“We have a heck of a group of seniors and I think they had a will to win today,” Richards said. “That made a big difference in the second half. And our defense was pretty special in that second half.”
King said the district title represents a lot for Mason.
“We leave it out on the court every game,” King said. “(Coach) said any game could be our last.”
Mason (21-2) advances to play Moeller (25-0) in a regional semifinal at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday at Wright State. Moeller beat Walnut Hills 57-44.
Richards said it will be the first meeting between the programs in about 15 years.
Richards said he has been blessed as a Mason coach since 1995-96. He has over 300 career wins.
Mason basketball means so much to the community, the players and the coaches. That was evident Saturday afternoon.
"Except for family, (Mason basketball) means pretty much everything to me," Richards said.