Thursday, December 02, 1999

Everybody loves Mason

Comets are unanimous No. 1 in girls basketball poll

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Weeks before the Mason girls basketball team stepped onto the court for its first game, the pressure already was at an all-time high. Street and Smith magazine named coach Gerry Lackey's team No.3 in the nation. USA Today gave Mason a No.2 preseason ranking.

        Every coach voting in The Cincinnati Enquirer's preseason Division I poll picked Mason No. 1. The Comets are 65-4 the past three seasons.

  1.   Mason (20) ....... 200
  2.   Mercy ....... 155
  3.   Colerain ....... 126
  4.   Sycamore ....... 115
  5.   Mt Notre Dame ....... 114
  6.   Princeton ....... 103
  7.   Hughes ....... 55
  8.   Seton ....... 49
  9.   Milford ....... 32
  10.   Oak Hills ....... 29
  Others: Harrison 25, Withrow 18, Lebanon 18, Lakota West 11, St. Ursula 11, Ursuline 9, McAuley 8, Glen Este 8, Woodward 1.

  1.   Badin (14) ....... 185
  2.   Roger Bacon (3) ....... 160
  3.   Wyoming (2) ....... 109
  4.   McNicholas (2) ....... 102
  5.   Little Miami ....... 84
  6.   Indian Hill ....... 71
  7.   Madeira ....... 62
  8.   CHCA ....... 61
  9.   Kings ....... 48
  10.   Springboro ....... 39
  Others: Taylor 37, Purcell Marian 32, Loveland 28, Bethel-Tate 27, Batavia 21, Eastern Brown 18, Goshen 15, Felicity 13, Ross 12, CCD 11, Waynesville 10, Finneytown 9, Seven Hills 7, Hillsboro 5, Mariemont 4, Norwood 4, New Richmond 4, Summit 3, Fayetteville 2.

        “Our kids realize that rankings are nice and it's an honor to be considered,” Lackey said. “But this makes every team want us even more, and they're usually fired up more for us.”

        In January of last year, Mason earned the No. 1 ranking in the USA Today Super 25 by beating No. 1 Pickerington at the Pickerington Invitational.

        But Pickerington beat Mason in the Division I state championship game to claim the national title. Mason played the finale without forward Beth Jones, who was injured in the state semifinals.

        Although Dallas Williams, now at Pittsburgh, is the only starter who graduated, replacing the 6-foot center/forward will be tough.

        “Dallas was definitely the leader, on and off the court,” Lackey said. “But every team loses people. The others must step up.”

        The pressure of filling Williams' shoes will fall on 6-1 junior Michelle Munoz, the Comets' only post player this season.

        With Williams in the lineup, opposing teams couldn't double or triple team Munoz, a strategy that most coaches will likely employ this season.

        “I don't feel any more pressure,” Munoz said. “In order for us to be successful, we must work as a team.”

        Munoz averaged 17.5 points and eight rebounds a game. She shot 58.7 percent from the field and 82.4 percent from the free throw line She also had 62 steals and 18 assists.

        “We can't rely only on Michelle on the inside,” Lackey said. “Stacy Shull has looked good and Jenny Imbus played well late last season.

        Another player capable of going inside is Jere' Issenmann, a 5-11 junior guard who averaged 10.5 points and 2.9 rebounds last season.

        Shooting from the perimeter will be a strength with Jones (11.1 ppg), Susan Lippert (4.4 ppg) and Racquel Ellis (5.6 ppg) capable of hitting 3-pointers.

        “We'll probably be more of a perimeter team than in the past,” Lackey said. “Teams will come up with defenses to stop Michelle and there's an advantage to having good outside shooting.”

        If Mason has a weakness, it's a lack of depth — only six players have varsity experience.

        “We'll definitely have to avoid injuries, remain healthy and keep out of foul trouble,” Munoz said. “We have a lot of goals and everyone realizes we have to take one game at a time to achieve them.”

        Defense has also been key in the Comets' past success.

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