Mason County ends Augusta’s run in 10th
BY MIKE FIELDS
MOUNT STERLING – Everything that is good and clean and competitive and entertaining and heartening about Kentucky high school basketball played out in a rousing 10th Region championship game at Montgomery County Tuesday night.
In a classic big school vs. small school matchup, traditional power Mason County outlasted tiny Augusta 48-41 in front of a packed house of 4,200 fans to earn a trip to Rupp Arena for the 99th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet Sixteen next week.
Mason County (enrollment 800) now owns 15 region titles, and the Royals’ heritage also includes two state championships (2003, 2008).
Mason County will play 5th Region champ Taylor County in the first round of the state tournament.
Augusta (enrollment 85) was denied its first region title in 90 years.
It was easy to cast Mason County as Goliath and Augusta as David, but both coaches felt that was a misrepresentation of their team.
Royals Coach Buddy Biggs said his players were the real underdogs.
“The miracle is right here,” Biggs said emphatically. “We had one returning starter and he averaged 9 points a game last year. Our other guys were playing jayvee and freshman ball. (Augusta) had five four-year starters.
“We had so many unknowns this year. Who was going to start? Who was going to step up? Who was going to fill the roles? But these guys grew up and persevered, and what they did this year was absolutely amazing.”
Biggs, who led Pendleton County to the 2005 Sweet Sixteen before leaving for Ashland Blazer, is in his first year at Mason County.
“The Royals are back on top in the 10th,” he said, “and I love it.”
Antwavon “Pig” Williams, a 6-foot-1 senior, led Mason County with 20 points, four rebounds, four assists, and four blocked shots.
Darren Williams had 9 points. Leevi Dunaway had 8 points, and Conner Sweeney added 7 points and 7 rebounds.
Pig echoed his coach’s comments about the Royals being the real long shots in the 10th.
“We were told all year long we wouldn’t be in this position,” he said. “But we stuck together and did it even with the whole world against us.”
The whole world did seem to be rooting for Augusta, which was trying to write a script equal to “Hoosiers.”
Before the game, Mount Sterling radio man Dan Manley quipped: “The only difference between Augusta and ‘Hoosiers’ is that ‘Hoosiers’ is much more believable.”
With their orange-shirted faithful roaring their approval, the Panthers went on an 11-0 run to take a 39-36 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
“Right then I thought we were going to put them away,” said Augusta senior Connor Maddox, who hit a pair of three-pointers to fuel the comeback.
Maddox and teammates Owens Crawford, Camryn Snapp, Jared Shoemaker and Tanner Pugh weren’t thinking anything outlandish.
Over the past four years, Augusta knocked off Mason County twice in the district semifinals, and the Panthers rallied to upset the Royals just last week in the district title game.
But Augusta’s magic run came to an end when Pig Williams spurred Mason County to an 8-0 run, and eventually victory.
“You can’t judge the success that these guys have had just on one game,” Panthers Coach Brian Kirk said. “Three district championships is something that’s never been done before in Augusta High School history.
“These guys have nothing to be ashamed of. For a school of 85 kids, for these guys to come together and play for one another and make a great run like this, I’m very proud of them.
“We just came up on the short end tonight.”
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