Mason County breathes a sigh of relief as they enter the second season.
After a tumultuous run in the regular season, the Royals hit full gear in the 39th District Tournament and enter the 10th Region Tournament with a bit of confidence.
Starting off will be Scott, a team that ended the Royals season on The Fieldhouse floor a year ago.
“It’s completely different than last year. Every team changes and evolves. Even playing them earlier this year, both teams are different now,” Royals coach Buddy Biggs said.
From the season opening game to Thursday’s contest with the Eagles, the Royals have made a lot of changes either with departures or dismissals from the team or players stepping up into new roles.
Stepping up has been Malkolm Devine and Xylon Frey for the Royals as both have been inserted into the starting rotation. Devine has scored 13 points a game down the last 10 games of the season, including a career-high 29 in the 39th District Final against Bracken County. Frey’s increased his production as of late, including games of 25 points against Ashland on February 5 and pulling down 14 rebounds in the district title.
Those two might be relied on even heavier with injury concerns.
Big man Dalton Perkins (concussion) and guard Jaylen Lofton are questionable for Thursday’s game. Perkins’, who suffered a concussion in the regular season finale, rim protecting abilities would play a big part against an Eagles team that likes to penetrate.
“They love to drive to the basket and he would help alter a lot of those shots and help us get out in transition,” Biggs said.
Lofton has a hand injury and would be a huge blow if unable to go. He brings a lot to the table for the Royals not only offensively, but defensively as well. At 5-foot-10, Lofton leads the team in rebounds and assists, helping jump start the Royals transition attack.
Rebounding is an area the Royals have been most consistent, averaging 41.6 rebounds a game, putting them first in the state in that category.
“They might not big big, but they’re athletic and jump very well, attack the rim very well. If we stop their dribble penetration and rebound the basketball, we have a good chance to win,” Biggs said.
Leevi Dunaway benefits the most from the transition attack, averaging 20 points a game. The senior guard has been the most consistent for the Royals throughout the season, recently entering the top ten in scoring in Mason County history.
“They’ve got a player that would start for every team in the region. They have two players that would start for every team in the region,” Eagles coach Steve Fromeyer said of Dunaway and Lofton. “That’s a hard place to get a win. It’s going to be hot, it’s going to be live. We’re going to have to play very, very well. Their size and their speed were tough for us the first time we played and they out executed us.”
In the first battle between the two, the Royals slipped away with a 73-72 victory at The Fieldhouse on December 8. That’s virtually a throw away game with the timeframe and change of both teams.
One thing that hasn’t and won’t change will be the tempo. Both teams prefer to play at a fast pace.
“We thought tempo in our games in the district would be an issue, we don’t anticipate that here. Both teams love to get up and down the floor and try to get some easy baskets,” Biggs said.
Thursday’s tilt starts at 7:30 p.m. The winner gets the Pendleton County-Paris winner in Monday’s semifinal.
DATE; OPPONENT; SITE; RESULT
Nov. 28; St. Patrick; home; (W) 80-31
Dec. 1; Simon Kenton; away; (L) 75-72
Dec. 5; Bourbon County; home; (L) 73-68 (OT)
Dec. 8; Scott; home; (W) 73-72
Dec. 12; Bracken County; away; (W) 69-45
Dec. 14; East Carter; away; (W) 80-72
Dec. 16; Louisville Male; away; (W) 75-64
Dec. 19; Dixie Heights; home; (W) 61-48
Dec. 21; Highlands; home; (W) 72-61; US Bank Mike Murphy Classic
Dec. 22; Pendleton County; home; (L) 89-67; US Bank Mike Murphy Classic
Dec. 27; Boyd County; at Ashland; (L) 82-74; Ashland Invitational
Dec. 28; Owensboro Catholic; at Ashland; (L) 67-31; Ashland Invitational
Dec. 29; Breathitt County; at Ashland; (W) 66-64; Ashland Invitational
Jan. 3; Campbell County; home; (L) 77-68
Jan. 6; Holmes; away; (W) 51-46
Jan. 9; Fleming County; home; (W) 70-58
Jan. 19; Ripley, OH; home; (W) 70-67
Jan. 20; Lewis County; away; (L) 74-58
Jan. 23; Paris; away; (L) 56-49
Jan. 27; Boyd County; home; (L) 64-62 (OT)
Jan. 30; Montgomery County; home; (W) 58-52
Jan. 31; Bracken County; home; (W) 84-56
Feb. 2; George Rogers Clark; away; (L) 78-45
Feb. 3; Western Brown, OH; home; (W) 73-55
Feb. 5; Ashland Blazer; home; (W) 91-80
Feb. 9; Harrison County; home; (L) 61-57
Feb. 13; Rowan County; away; (L) 64-58
Feb. 15; Bishop Brossart; away; (L) 84-66
Feb. 19; Augusta; home; (W) 82-61; 39th District Tournament
Feb. 22; Bracken County; home; (W) 74-42; 39th District Championship
Mar. 1; Scott; home; 7:30 PM; 10th Region Tournament
NO.; NAME; HEIGHT; WEIGHT; GRADE
5; Malkolm Devine; 5-11; 180; Sr.
1; Leevi Dunaway; 6-1; 165; Sr.
12; Braden Jackson; 6-0; 185; Sr.
25; Dalton Perkins; 6-10; 200; Sr.
2; Jaylen Lofton; 5-11; 180; Jr.
31; Carson Brammer; 6-0; 150; So.
20; Xylon Frey; 6-2; 160; So.
11; Kolby Jones; 5-11; 150; So.
35; Braden May; 6-0; 150; So.
30; Jayden Riggs; 5-10; 130; So.
34; Blaine Highfield; 6-2; 160; Fr.
23; Jeremiah Jones; 6-0; 150; Fr.
10; Anwar Perry; 5-6; 140; Fr.
Head Coach: James “Buddy” Biggs
Assistants: Brian Miller, Lamont Taylor, Zack Irvine, Andy Clarke
Manager: Matt Miller
Athletic Directors: Chris Ullery and Jeremy Hawkins
POINTS FOR: 2,004
POINTS ALLOWED: 1,918
POINTS PER GAME: 66.8
POINTS ALLOWED PER GAME: 63.9
FIELD GOAL %: 41.4
3-POINT %: 29.5
FREE THROW %: 67.1
REBOUNDS PER GAME: 41.6