Comets celebrate Matula final home game with GMC clinching win over Lakota East

 Camden Paeltz | The Chronicle

Rob Matula has dedicated 18 years to the Mason girls’ basketball program. For his final home game on February 10, the Mason community united to celebrate his impact.

Matula has been coaching basketball ever since 1988. 26 of those years Matula has spent across three teams as the head coach, 18 of which have been with Mason. Since Matula took over in the 2005 season, he has won 375 games with the program. He has led the team to seven GMC Championships, 14 Sectional titles, 11 District Championships, three Regional titles and two state runner-up titles. (Editor’s Note: All results and game totals as of March 4)

The Mason Comets faced the Lakota East Thunderhawks at home in their final game of the regular season with a Greater Miami Conference (GMC) on the line. The Comets entered the game with a one-game lead in the conference over the Thunderhawks, needing a win to clinch sole possession of the title.

At his final home game, the current team changed their warm-up shirts to a shirt with Matula written across the top, with various pictures of Matula across the front. Many of his former players spanning his entire coaching career were in attendance to pay tribute to Matula.

Former player Kayla Michael (McDowell) from 2009 to 2013, a four-year starter under Matula, was one of the many alumni in the stands. She emphasized that Matula not only valued their skills on the court but also prioritized building a friendly relationship with his players. Under Matula’s guidance, Michael (McDowell) was able to lead the team into their first regional appearance since 2000, further solidifying his impact on their successful relationship with Matula, even if he was yelling at his players from the sideline.

“It was amazing, he was the perfect balance of your biggest fan and you know that he loves you but then also he challenges you to be the best you can be,” Michael said.

Jenna Gunn was a four-year starter from 2010 to 2014 and was in attendance for Matula’s sendoff. Gunn said that Matula was able to balance being a tough coach and creating a supportive and friendly environment off the court, due to his intensive focus on cultivating healthy relationships with his team.

“Good leaders are people that care about you,” Gunn said. “As a coach, Matula always showed that he cared about you far beyond just basketball — he cared about you as a person.”

The Comets were slowed down in the first half by the Thunderhawk’s defense, which allows just 36 points per game. A three-point barrage from Lakota East, who made eight threes in total, pushed them to a 22-16 lead at halftime. 

The Comets flipped the script in the second half, outscoring the Thunderhawks 11-8 in the third quarter to close the gap to a 27-30 deficit. In the fourth quarter, Mason completed the comeback by scoring 17 points, taking advantage of Lakota East’s foul troubles. The Thunderhawks had 22 fouls throughout the game, and the Comets shot 16-25 from the line. In comparison, Lakota East hit three of their ten attempts. 

Junior Madison Parrish led the way offensively with 16 points, including shooting seven for nine from the free-throw line. Sophomore Anna Habra added a game-high eight rebounds. The Comets won 44-39, clinching sole possession of the Greater Miami Conference championship, Matula’s seventh title.