No. 2 Mason Back in Familiar Territory Heading into State
MASON, TX -- In 2017, when the Mason Cowgirls were in attendance of Mason’s regional final football game with Refugio at the Alamodome, they knew they wanted to play there.
“We wanna be in the Alamodome,” head coach Jeff Guice recalled them saying. “We wanna be good at everything ... Our kids are used to that.”
The Cowgirls did just that, winning region IV in 2018 and making their first trip to the state tournament. They would fall to eventual state champ Martin’s Mill in the semifinal.
So, Mason set out on their path to get back to San Antonio starting in the summer. The Cowgirls went to a few team camps over the summer and continued that work during the school year in cross country, where the Cowgirls finished fourth. That spilled over to early team practices in October and their regular season opener in November.
But that hard work “didn’t start this year,” Guice said. It’s been a process over the last “several” years.
That process included implementing a stereotypically tough Mason defense. The Cowgirls can run their press defense with the best in the state, hence why they have held opponents to 30 points or fewer in 19 of their 39 games this season. It’s also been the leading reason why Mason is on a 31-game winning streak entering the state tournament.
“We’ve pressed the last several years to hurry teams,” Guice said, adding that defense puts teams in uncomfortable situations. “We preach five girls defending the ball rather than one-on-one.”
Then you have a potent offense for the Cowgirls, averaging 63.5 points per game during their 29-game winning streak that has seen them back to San Antonio.
The reason their offense has been so good is because of a deep roster and having girls “who can shoot from all around,” Guice said. “All the girls on varsity have scored in double figures. All of them can contribute.”
Leading that charge is senior point guard Presley Anastas. The junior has been the epitome of a floor general all year for the Cowgirls.
“She’s a great ball handler,” Guice praised. “She sees the floor and gets the ball in the right hands. She’s a great defender … She starts it.”
Mason’s offense has run into its fair share of tests over their 39-game season so far. Teams frequently play a physical press on the Cowgirls, hoping to put them in an uncomfortable spot. With Anastas leading the charge, it hasn’t worked yet during this 29-game run for Mason.
“We practice [press break] a lot,” Guice said. “The experience always helps. Shiner played us physically and San Saba pressed us.”
Presley and her sister, Peyton, looked to be set for a stellar last year on the court together. However, Peyton suffered an injury early in their December game against Lake View. Presley continues to leave it on the court for her sister and her teammates.
“That was hard for us to lose her,” Presley said after Mason’s regional final win over San Saba. “But I try to, you know, play for her. That’s all of us, we play for Peyton.”
So, with the state tournament and a potential rematch with no. 1-ranked Martin’s Mill on the horizon, Mason isn’t losing focus.
“We haven’t talked about Martin’s Mill,” Guice said, adding that his assistants are breaking down film for a potential state championship game. “We hope to have the opportunity to play them, but we have to handle our business first. We’re focused on Grapeland.”
No. 12 Grapeland comes into the state tournament with the most losses of any team at 28-8 overall, but Guice doesn’t believe the ranking or record does Grapeland justice -- they have a two losses to Martin’s Mill and a couple of losses to Class 6A teams as well as wins against 6A teams.
Grapeland comfortably got through the Region III tournament. The Sandies beat Woden 53-44 in the semifinals before routing Marlin 63-43 in the final.
Guice does feel his team matches up well with the Region III winner, though.
Mason will square off with Grapeland on Friday at 10:00 a.m. from the Alamodome.