Bracken County vs. Mason County: Preview (WGM Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic)

Depending on how you define rivalry, Bracken County and Mason County is one of the biggest rivalries in the region. If you define a rivalry as two programs with mutual success over each other, then it’s not much of a rivalry. Mason County has won 31 straight games over Bracken County. Bracken County’s last win over Mason County was on February 16th, 1999. This is the same stat you’ve heard the 30 past times they’ve met as the streak grows longer.

They will meet again on Tuesday, December 27, at 8:30 pm at the White, Greer, & Maggard Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic.

Bracken County has been within seconds of taking down the Royals in recent history. In 2019, Mason County scored with 15 seconds left to give them a 71-70 lead over the Polar Bears. Bracken County missed a shot at the buzzer that would have won them their first District Championship since 1999.

In 2015 it was 79-74. In 2017, it was 73-68. In 2020 (Adam Reed’s first year), it was 54-50. All in the District Tournament.

Last season, Bracken and Mason County did not play in the regular season. The Polar Bears were ranked #3, and the Royals were ranked #2 in the 10th Region.

It felt like Bracken County would finally get their chance. Terrell Henry would prevent that from happening. Henry would have a monster night with 22 points and 21 rebounds. Mason County won their 31st straight game, 64-54.

Coincidentally, Terrell Henry played on the same AAU team growing up with Blake and Cayden Reed, coached by their dad, Adam Reed. Nate Mitchell, who scored 14 points in that game, also played for Coach Reed’s AAU team.

Bracken County would also have a historically bad shooting night (credit to Mason County’s defense). Bracken County shot 2/21 from three and went 10/18 from the line.

Blake Reed, who led the state last year in three-point goals at 123 at 38%, was just 1 of 11 from beyond the arc.

To be fair, The Mason County Fieldhouse has proven to be a prime home-court advantage for the Royals. Bracken County has only beat Mason County at the Fieldhouse six times in school history.

This time, they will meet on a true neutral floor for the first time since the 1961 10th Region Tournament at Harrison County. Of the 106 games played between the two, 35 have been played at Bracken County, and 70 have been played at Mason County.

While the players of both teams have great friendships and a desire to play each other (and played basketball with each other growing up), they will not play in the regular season. Mason County declined Bracken County’s request to schedule a game in the regular season this year.

So, when Lexington Catholic had Bracken County and Mason County confirm their invitation to the prestigious tournament, you have to pair them in the first round in the prime-time spot. Right?

Many are asking, aren’t they required to play in the regular season for district seeding? Why aren’t two teams in the same region and same district not playing? Well, the 39th District is one of the few districts in the state that pairs teams in the district by a random blind draw.

Therefore, they are not required to play with each other. It takes a majority of district schools to change this. Mason County and Bracken County favor seeding, while St. Patrick and Augusta do not.

Now to the game. Bracken County is once again ranked #3 in the 10th Region, and Mason County is ranked #2 (and by some, #1) in the 10th Region. Mason County is ranked as a top 10 team in the state by almost ever poll, and Bracken County is narrowly outside the top 25. (44 by the Massey Ratings).

In the offseason, Mason County added a transfer from Augusta, Riley Mastin. The 6’6″ senior is now their leading scorer. Mastin is averaging 17.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

The Royals also retain 6’4″ Terrell Henry, averaging 16.4 points and 6.1 rebounds. Braylon Hamilton is averaging 11.9, and Philip Bierley is at 10.2 points per game. So, Mason County has four players averaging double figures.

The Royals are a perfect 8-0 to start the season. Their biggest win was over defending 2nd Region Champions Lyon County. They also had a 29-point win over Fleming County and a 14-point win over Louisville Butler.

Unfortunately, Mason County could not face McCracken County in what would have been one of their toughest games of the season. The game was cancelled in the MCIT due to impending weather last weekend.

Bracken County sits at a comfortable 9-2, their best start since 1961-62. They are led by the state’s 2nd leading score Blake Reed. averaging 32.5 points per game.

Blake Reed is just 18 points away from 3,000 career points.

While Bracken County has two losses, one of them is to the Massey Ratings’ #1 team in the state, Covington Catholic. Bracken County lost that game 79-70.

Their second loss is to Harlan. Although Harlan won that game 83-67, they dominated Bracken on the boards by out-rebounding the small Polar Bears 52-26.

Rebounding will be key if Bracken County wants to dethrone the Royals’ win streak. The Royals have the height with the new addition of Riley Mastin, along with Terrell Henry and Philip Bierley.

Bracken County will be playing without their “big man.” JuShod Commodore, 5’11”, was injured in an accident at home that required surgery to repair a severed tendon in his hand. The senior will miss the rest of the season.

Second in scoring for Bracken County is sophomore Cayden Reed. Cayden is averaging 15.5 points a game and is the Polar Bears’ leading rebounder at 7.3 a game. He is also arguably the quickest and best man-to-man defender in the region.

Chase Archibald, who transferred to Bracken County from Augusta, is also having a good start. Archibald averages 12.3 points per game and 3.3 threes per game at 39.1%. Blake Reed is averaging 4 threes per game at 48.9%, which is second in the state.

As Brian Kirk told Travis Scaggs of WFTM, “It’s going to be a special night. I’m looking forward to it, our kids are looking forward to it, and it’s going to be a hot ticket.”

The Massey Ratings predict a final score of 69-64 in favor of Mason County. Mason County’s win probability is 63%, and Bracken County’s is 37%.

You can watch at go.prepspin.com for $14.95, listen online at soft96.com, follow along on Twitter at @tenthregion, or watch it in person at Lexington Catholic for $10. Buy advance tickets here.