After Mason County beat host Paul Laurence Dunbar 78-65 in boys' basketball Friday night, the Royals were happily looking forward to getting on a bus and returning to Maysville.
Mason County's first 12 games have been on the road, including a holiday tournament in Hawaii. Its home opener is, at long last, Saturday against Deming.
"I think the kids are really excited about finally playing at the Fieldhouse," Coach Chris O'Hearn said. "It's been a long stretch."
Royals senior Treg Setty concurred.
"It's crazy how much we've traveled," he said. "It's kind of ridiculous if you think we've been to Hawaii and back, and all these other away games.
"It doesn't even feel like a season yet. It feels more like AAU summer ball, always on the road."
Setty's game hasn't suffered from all the miles. The Southern Illinois University signee is averaging 22 points and nine rebounds.
After scoring a career-high 34 points in a win at Campbell County Tuesday night, the 6-foot-8 senior dropped 33 on Dunbar. He could have had 40 if he hadn't missed 10 of 13 free throws.
Setty, who recently joined older brother Trevor (now at Pikeville College) in the Royals' 1,000-point club, hit 14 of 17 shots against the Bulldogs. Most of those came on layups as he exploited his height advantage.
Tyler Black was also a monster inside for Mason County. The 6-2, 215-pound junior had 24 points, including four three-point plays, and 13 rebounds.
Jordan Gilbert, a 5-10 senior point guard who shone in the Sweet Sixteen last March, added 11 points and seven assists.
While O'Hearn admitted that the Royals' schedule was "a little screwed up," he sees a possible benefit to it.
"Mentally we have to become tougher, and it's mentally challenging to play on the road against good competition. So we're hoping that'll help us."
Mason County also hopes to get a lift in February by the return of 6-3 senior veteran Neal Pawsat, who for the second year in a row is recovering from a football injury.
But the three-time defending 10th Region champs had more than enough firepower to subdue Dunbar. They took control with a 13-0 run to open the second quarter. That gave them a 12-point lead.
Dunbar made a couple of runs at the Royals, but the visitors always answered and padded their lead to 19 in the fourth quarter.
Dunbar was led by William Gary's 15 points, nine assists, five rebounds and four steals.
Clay Coyle had 12 points and five assists.
After playing a solid first quarter, the Bulldogs were plagued by turnovers and poor free-throw shooting.
"That's been us for a lot of the year," said first-year coach Justin Yeary. "We'll put together three or four very good minutes, or a quarter, but then we have four minutes where we fall apart and throw it all over the gym."
Yeary was pleased with the way his team hustled to the final horn, forcing O'Hearn to get his starters back in the game for the final minute.
Yeary hopes he sees more of that hustle.
"We've kind of paid for past sins," he said, "because our effort in practice hasn't been what it needs to be."
MASON COUNTY (7-5) — Setty 14-17 3-13 33, Black 9-16 6-6 24, Gilbert 4-8 0-0 11, Hamm 1-2 0-0 2, Harris 2-6 0-0 5,Osborne 1-5 0-0 3, Staggs 0-1 0-0 0, Chambers 0-1 0-0 0, Henry 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 31-57 9-19 78.
PAUL DUNBAR (7-8) — Johnson 4-7 0-1 8, Lamanna 4-6 0-0 8, Gary 6-15 2-5 15, Herrin 2-3 0-2 6, Coyle 4-11 2-2 12, Adu-Peasah 1-2 0-0 2, Blincoe 3-3 0-0 6, Boaz 1-4 0-0 2, Haga 2-3 2-5 6, Avioli 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 27-56 6-19 65.
Mason County 18 21 18 21—78
Paul Dunbar 19 9 16 21—65