Mason County Royals
Region: 10 Record: 23-6 Enrollment: 786
Chris O'Hearn (153-38, six years) played in the Sweet Sixteen for Mason County in the mid-1980s. As coach, he has led the Royals to the state tournament four times, winning it in 2008.
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Justin Lang 5-10 sr. 8.2 ppg
Rheuben Bluford 6-5 sr. 5.5 ppg
Bradley Lang 6-2 sr. 6.9 ppg
Jordan Gilbert 5-10 jr. 9.7 ppg
Treg Setty 6-8 jr. 13.9 ppg
"The thing about our team is we're exactly that — we're a team," O'Hearn said. "I don't think there's one person you could focus on." Mason County has won its last 10 games, giving up 60 points just once during that span. O'Hearn said that defense, predominantly man-to-man, is the team's calling card: "We're pretty solid defensively, and we can do it in the full court and we can do it in the half court. ... We've got two little guards that are as tough as nails in Justin Lang and Jordan Gilbert, and we've got some athleticism and some length at the 3-4-5 spots that allow us to really pressure people."
Three of Mason's top seven players have missed significant playing time due to injury: Neal Pawsat (knee ligament, did not play until Feb. 1), Josh Harris (ankle ligament, two months) and Tyler Black (knee meniscus, seven weeks). All are healthy now, though, and each of the Royals' top seven players average 5.5 points or better.
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Treg Setty, a versatile forward, leads the Royals with 13.9 points and 7.0 rebounds a game. "He can play out on the floor. He can play in the paint," O'Hearn said. "He's very skilled for his size. He handles and passes it well, and he shoots the ball well from the three-point line." According to O'Hearn, Miami (Ohio) and Southern Illinois have made scholarship offers.
Mason County is making its 14th appearance — its third in a row, fourth in five years and eighth since 2002. The Royals won titles in 2003 and 2008.
North Hardin Trojans
Region: 5 Record: 27-4 Enrollment: 1,400
Ron Bevars (752-308, 35 years) ranks fifth in the state for all-time victories. He has been at the helm for all 11 of North Hardin's trips to the Sweet Sixteen.
James Berry 6-4 sr. 13.5 ppg
Roosevelt Emerson 6-6 sr. 13.3 ppg
Jermaine Ruttley 6-2 so. 10.4 ppg
Nigel Phelps 6-5 sr. 11.5 ppg
Rolondo Emerson 6-1 sr. 7.5 ppg
"We've got some seniors that have been around for a long time," Bevars said. "We've got some kids with good size. We start four guys that are 6-2 or better, and they weigh over 200 pounds, so we've got a little beef. ... We're not a great rebounding team, but pretty good. I think the strongest suit we've had probably is just that we figured out how to win." The Trojans, riding a seven-game winning streak, are 12-0 in games decided by six points or less. James Berry, although he leads the team in scoring and rebounding, has been held down after having cartilage removed from both knees late in the summer. However, his teammates have stepped up and put forth a balanced scoring attack — four of five starters average from 11.5 to 13.5 points. The fifth adds 7.5 points and is among four starters averaging 5.4 rebounds or more.
"We're not really, really good at anything, but we've played hard and we've battled when we've had to," Bevars said. "We sort of survived. We're just sort of a team that hangs around and figures out a way to win at the end. ... There's not a true superstar on our team."
Player to watch
Jermaine Ruttley, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, took over at point guard under the worst of circumstances — his predecessor and mentor Cameron Irvin was killed Aug. 1 when he was hit by a car while riding a bike. "It's been hard on him because Cameron took him under his wing," Bevars said. Nevertheless, Ruttley has been the catalyst of the team, averaging 10.4 points and four assists, shooting 37.5 percent from three-point range.
North Hardin is making its 11th appearance in the tournament and first since 2003. The Trojans were runners-up in 1982.