Third-seeded Comets rolling into tournament

Heading into the Division I girls basketball tournament draw, Mason coach Rob Matula knew there was a window where his squad would fall.

Lakota West, the second-ranked team in the state, was going to be the number one seed.

After that, Matula could see his Comets falling into any of the next four spots.

“There were no surprises,” Matula said. “I thought we could be anywhere between two and five because our district is loaded with really good teams.”

Mount Notre Dame took the second seed, Mason the third.

The Comets will take a first-round bye before facing the winner of Mount Healthy (8-11) and Milford (6-14) in the second round of the tournament at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 21 at Lakota East High School.

“Every year, I look to get a bye in the first round so that our kids, coaches, and fans have time to rejuvenate for what we hope will be a long tourney run,” Matula said. “I just tried to find a good path to allow us a chance to make it to the district championship day at Princeton.”

Mason enters the tournament hot, having won 12 in a row to push its record to 17-3 at the time of the draw.

“We hope to get better as the year progresses by playing the best schedule that we can,” Matula said. “I like where we are but we have to get better and more focused as the year ends knowing that it is one and done in the tournament.”

Lebanon (17-3) achieved one of its goals for the season, grabbing the three seed behind Beavercreek and Springboro in the Dayton tournament draw.

“One of our goals to start the season was to be one of the top three teams in Dayton sectional draw,” Lebanon coach Robert Hodges said. “By getting the three seed we met that goal.”

Lebanon will open on Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. at Troy High School against the winner of Northmont (9-9) and Tecumseh (16-5).

For Hodges, the chance to take a bye and avoid the top two seeds in the sectional tournament was an easy pick. Lebanon has lost to both this season.

“We felt the open bracket gave us the best chance to make it to districts,” Hodges said. “We liked getting the bye in being one game away from the sectional final.”

Between reaching a goal and making it to the sectional finals in 2017, the Warriors have a lot to motivate them heading into the postseason.

“Achieving a higher seed is certainly motivation for our tourney run,” Hodge said. “Last year’s tourney run is some motivation too, but there’s excitement for it this year and how deep of a run we can make.”

Lebanon had won five in a row heading into the tournament draw and closed the regular season with games against Springboro and St. Ursula.

“We feel very good heading into the tournament,” Hodges said. “We have been playing a better and better brand of basketball lately. Some of our late-season opponents serve as great competition to make us more ready for tournament play.”

The voting went about the way Little Miami coach Matt Tolliver expected.

The Panthers, despite being 13-7, were the 15th seed in Cincinnati and will face Anderson (8-12) at Lakota East High School at 7:30 p.m. on Feb, 15. A win would put them in the second round against 9-11 Middletown with top-seed Lakota West waiting in the sectional final.

“I was debating on whether to take where we took or take a bye and play the winner of Turpin and Ursuline,” Tolliver said. “We decided to go where we thought we could possibly win multiple games and we thought going here would give us the best chance to do that.

“Everyone was avoiding Lakota West’s bracket, so we were the second team to go there and had no say on who jumped on us and what not but knew we would be seeded higher than anyone for the first two games.”

Little Miami advanced to the second round in 2017 before being eliminated and Tolliver believes the bracket this year gives the squad an opportunity to take it a step further — if they can get healthy.

“We have battled injuries all year and they struck again this week,” Tolliver said. “We are hoping to get healthy before tourney time and see what happens.”

Kings was voted the 16th seed and will face number eight Princeton on Feb. 17 at 4 p.m. at Lakota East.

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