Mason County calls the 10th Region home, but the defending state basketball champions are measuring themselves against 11th Region teams this season.
The Royals passed their latest test by beating host Henry Clay 54-44 Friday night. Treg Setty led the way with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
This was Mason County's fifth game against 11th Region teams. It previously beat Madison Central, and lost to Franklin County, Lexington Catholic and Scott County. It still must visit Paul Dunbar (Feb. 2) and Bryan Station (Feb. 20).
"The 11th Region is probably the toughest region in Kentucky, and we're definitely on the tour," Royals Coach Chris O'Hearn said. "We think it'll help us come March."
Mason County expected to have trouble with Henry Clay, which was coming off upsets of No. 10 Bryan Station and No. 15 Dunbar.
"I watched them beat Station, and they were magnificent," O'Hearn said.
Henry Clay led 26-22 at halftime Friday, but Devils Coach Daniel Brown said both teams looked lethargic.
Mason County pepped up in the second half, but Henry Clay never did. The Royals went on a 21-4 run to take control.
Mason County's defense held Henry Clay to four points in an 11-minute stretch.
The Royals got their spark by crashing the boards.
"That was the difference," Brown said. "They established themselves in the paint. Rebounding, especially the offensive boards, was the story of the game."
Setty, a 6-foot-7 sophomore whose brother Trevor was a senior starter for the Royals last season, has developed into more than a long-range shooter. He's a rebounder and force inside, too.
"Treg had 17 rebounds against Lexington Catholic," O'Hearn said. "He's really grown up the last two weeks. He's playing much more intense, much harder."
Setty said he "kind of turned it on lately. I let everything roll and went with it."
Brown says Setty has a big upside: "In their system, he's got to be one of the best sophomores in the state potentially."
Mason County senior Russ Middleton, a Georgetown signee, had 14 points and five rebounds. Neal Pawsat and Keith Downing combined for 16 points and 12 rebounds as the Royals won the battle of the boards 40-26.
Henry Clay shot 31.5 percent, including 22 percent in the second half.
Senior guard Prince Stewart had the first basket of the game — giving him 1,000 career points — but he didn't have much luck the rest of the night. He was 3-for-14 from the field and finished with 11 points.
Sophomore Daniel Kiesling had 10 points, all in the first half, and five rebounds.
"Mason County showed that willingness and toughness that they always do in winning games," Brown said.
"We just got beat by a better team tonight."
Better, in part, because it's playing 11th Region competition.
"Playing any team from the 11th Region is going to help us," Setty said. "It can only benefit us and make us better."
mason county 54, Henry Clay 44
MASON COUNTY (13-4) — Setty 7-14 3-8 18, Middleton 7-15 0-1 14, Barner 3-4 0-2 6, Pawsat 3-8 2-3 8, Downing 4-5 0-1 8, Hamm 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 24-46 5-17 54.
HENRY CLAY (12-8) — P. Stewart 3-14 4-4 11, Kiesling 5-9 0-0 10, Barnes 2-6 2-2 6, T.Stewart 2-3 0-0 4, Kimball 2-8 0-0 4, Johnson 2-8 0-0 6, Wilder 0-3 0-0 0, Nichols 0-1 0-0 0, Parker 1-1 0-0 3, Smith 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-54 6-6 44.
Mason County 8 14 18 14—54
Henry Clay 14 12 7 11—44