MASON, Ohio – Mason girls’ basketball coach Rob Matula loves to emphasize defense. It's in the DNA of every Mason girls' basketball team.
This winter has been no different.
The Comets hope to replicate the strong defensive effort in the regional tournament last week in Kettering, starting Friday night in Columbus.
Mason (24-3), ranked No. 7 in the final Associated Press Division I statewide media poll, plays top-ranked Pickerington Central (26-2) at 8 p.m. in the second Division I state girls’ basketball semifinal at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center. The winner plays either Solon (25-2) or Wadsworth (24-3) in the final at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Comets return to Columbus for the first time since 2016 when it was a Division I state runner-up. This is the fifth state tournament appearance for Mason. The Comets won the state title in 2000 after being state runners-up in 1999 and 1997.
There is some familiarity with Pickerington Central, a team that will be in home territory at The Schott. Mason played Pickerington Central in an Ohio State team camp last summer.
“It’s going to be very similar to the Lakota West game and the Mount Notre Dame game,” Matula said of Mason’s two regional tournament opponents. “We are going to have to be really good defensively.”
Mason limited MND to just 10 field goals in the regional semifinal on a night when Matula said it was the most stellar defensive performance he’s seen in 30 years of coaching.
Bryce McKey, Associate Director of the Ohio Girls’ Basketball Report, said Mason must match Pickerington Central’s quick pace. Defensive stops and defensive rebounding will be key.
Pickerington Central’s most talented player is junior point guard Madison Greene (11.1 points per game), so McKey said Mason’s guards will need to be locked in defensively.
Pickerington Central, making its first state tournament appearance since 2006, also features junior forward Maliya Perry (Auburn commit/12.6 ppg.), senior forward Kyla Whitehead (Dayton signee) and senior forward Bexley Wallace (Penn State signee).
“They do a nice job of isolating their players,” Matula said. “They’ve got length enough that they make it difficult to match.”
Mason has two players on its roster from the 2016 state runner-up squad: starters Sammie Puisis (17.0 ppg., 6.0 rebounds per game), a first-team all-state junior forward and Florida State commit, and senior forward and NKU volleyball signee Anna Brinkmann (7.7 ppg., 5.1 rpg.).
Sophomore guard Megan Wagner (5.9 ppg., 4.7 assists per game) and senior forward Ti Fulton (8.3 ppg., 5.0 rpg.) will also be key starters for the Comets.
Matula said the team is locked in this week and ready. They have a scheduled practice for noon Friday at Otterbein. The team has shown poise all postseason and he expects nothing different Friday night.
“This group has everything organized,” Matula said. “Their focus is just impeccable. They are always doing what needs to be done.”