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Mason’s work leads Wakefield girls to DAC tourney title vs. Highland

Saturday, Feb. 23 | By Jeff Malmgren
Kelly Mason scored 45 points during the Delaney Athletic Conference Division I tournament to lead Wakefield to the championship. --Times-Democrat Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Wakefield senior Emily Granruth was named girls basketball Player of the Year during the regular season of the Delaney Athletic Conference.

This week, during the DAC tournament, Granruth's teammate Kelly Mason made a strong case for herself as that honoree, albeit too late to be considered.

Mason scored a game-high 22 points Saturday to lead her Wakefield Owls over the Highland Hawks, 49-22, during the championship game of the DAC Division I tournament in Warrenton. She also scored 23 points Thursday in the semifinals during a 65-47 victory over Fredericksburg Christian.

"Kelly had a fantastic tournament," Highland coach Gary Leake said. "If there were a tournament Most Valuable Player award, Kelly Mason would have won that.

"She has been in Emily's shadow for a while," he said. "I was glad to see her play as well as she did. Unfortunately it had to be against us."

Mason scored most of her points on driving layups. The Hawks seemed incapable of stepping between her and the basket.

"I've worked on it," Mason, a senior, said of her dribble penetration. "If it's there, I'm going to take it. If it's not, I'll just pass it to one of my teammates who's going to do the exact same thing."

It was there often Saturday for Mason, who also finished with a four steals and a game-high three assists.

Both Wakefield and Highland played sloppily early, combining for seven turnovers in the opening 73 seconds. The Owls led only 1-0 before Mason made a dribble jumper with 5 minutes, 13 seconds remaining in the first.

Mason eventually finished the period with 10 points and gave Wakefield a lead, 11-8, it never relinquished.

"The last two games she's started to assert herself," Owls coach Paul Sipes said. "Once we spread the floor, it's tough trying to guard her away from the basket."

Wakefield won the DAC tournament title for only the second time in program history. It previously won the 2009-10 title when Mason was a freshman.

"It feel good to win it twice," said Mason, whose team also won a share of the 2012-13 DAC regular season title with Seton.

That 2009-10 season started Wakefield's recent status as an annual state-qualifier.

"Emily is a fantastic basketball player, but I really feel it was the play of Kelly that got them to [this] level," Leake said.

Wakefield (23-6) will host a game next week during the first round of the VISAA D-3 state tournament, likely as the No. 2 seed.

"We're going to try and make it to the state championship and try and win it," said sophomore Airielle Jenkins, who had nine points and two steals Saturday. "We want that ring."

No. 1 Amelia Academy (23-6) would pose quite a challenge, however, if both teams made it to the state final, Sipes said.

Meanwhile, the Hawks (13-7) will likely play on the road during the first round of the D-2 state tournament. It was ranked No. 8 in the latest poll.

Highland will enter state with a limp. It played Saturday without two starting forwards.

Katie Meckus is out for the season with an ankle injury, while Shelby Thornhill hurt her ankle at the end of the Hawks' 40-36 upset victory over top-seeded Seton in the DAC semifinals Thursday.

"That was a mental blow," Leake said. "We haven't started the same five players in back-to-back games this season. … With all of those moving parts, I'm very proud of what we have been able to accomplish."

Wakefield held the Hawks to two points in the second quarter and expanded its lead to 22-10 by halftime. The Owls then took a 35-22 lead by the end of the third quarter and shut out Highland in the fourth.

"We had a game plan going into the week to first concentrate on Seton," Leake said of the semifinal round. "I think we put so much effort and energy into getting to this [title] game that we were almost satisfied with being here."

The Owls forced 24 Highland turnovers and finished with 15 steals. Granruth had a game-high five steals and 14 rebounds as well as eight points and two assists.

Jenkins added nine points and two steals for Wakefield, while Michele Micciche and Kendal Mayer led Highland with six points each. Lauren Frye scored only two points, but had 12 rebounds and two blocks, while Mackenzie Ross had eight rebounds, four points, three steals and two blocks.
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