Something has to give Saturday afternoon at Wright State University’s Nutter Center when Wilmington faces Mason at 1 p.m. in a Div.I Southwest District championship game.
The Comets have won 12 sectional championships in the last 15 years under head coach Greg Richards, a former baseball coach at Clinton-Massie, but not a district title.
Led by head coach Michael Noszka, Wilmington has advanced to four consecutive district championship games but failed to take that next step.
Wilmington has not won a district title since the 2009 season when it defeated Springfield Shawnee 57-43 before falling to Thurgood Marshall 67-60 in the regional semifinals.
“There’s nothing but really good basketball teams left (in the district),” Noszka said. “The seven other teams in southwest Ohio are all really good and all really well-coached.”
The winner Saturday advances to the regional tournament, scheduled for March 9 and March 12 at the Cintas Center on the campus of Xavier University.
The other three district title games Saturday at Nutter Center include Lakota East versus Wayne at 3 p.m., Centerville against Cincinnati LaSalle at 7 p.m. and Moeller against Springfield at 9 p.m.
The regional brackets have the Wilmington-Mason winner playing the Moeller-Springfield winner. The other regional semifinal will pit the Wayne-Lakota East winner against either Centerville or LaSalle.
Mason comes into the game at 22-1. Wilmington is 24-1. Mason, for the second year in a row, is the No. 1 seed. Wilmington is the No. 4 seed.
“Mason is very good and disciplined in all they do at both ends of the floor,” Noszka said of the Comets. “They run the flex cut (on offense) and have multiple options off it. What they are trying to do is wait for you to break down (on defense). In my 23 years of coaching high school basketball, it’s the best flex offense I’ve seen.”
In two tournament games, the Comets are averaging 72 points a game, up 8 points from the regular season. Kyle Lamotte is a 6-3 guard who leads Mason in scoring at 18.5 points per game in the post-season. Eddie Puisis, a 6-0 guard, is averaging 17 points a game in the tournament.
Richards and his Comets have won 23 consecutive games since opening the season with a 51-49 loss to Dublin Jerome in the Ohio Valley Hoops Classic Nov. 27 at Wilmington College
“In general, I don’t think anybody knows what you’ve got the first five or six games,” Richards said. “We had three returning starters and then it was piecing the rest of the puzzle together.”
Mason and Wilmington have three common opponents — Middletown, Lakota East and Fairfield. Neither team has lost to any of the three this season. Mason lost to Cincinnati LaSalle in the sectional title game each of the last two years before advancing to the district last week with a 73-54 win over Middletown.
“Our kids were tired of getting to that (sectional title) game and not getting over that hurdle,” Richards admitted.
Facing Wilmington presents its own unique trials.
“They have probably the best player in the state of Ohio, so that’s always a challenge,” Richards said of WHS senior Jarron Cumberland. “But they’re not a one-man show. Jarron is really good, but they have quick guards who guard the ball well. They have length. There’s not one thing you can focus on.
“They are a well-rounded program, one of the really, really good ones for the last five or six years.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports.