Highlands' Mason surpasses 2,000-point plateau

| Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012

It took a little longer than some expected for Highlands' Micah Mason to reach the career 2,000-point mark, but the Highlands senior point guard is only human.

And milestones like this one rarely come easy.

Especially when your jersey is being pulled, your ribs are getting elbowed, and you're being boxed in by defenders who seem to be acting like mimes.

"It's such an unorthodox season for us because teams are willing to give up something to put extra guys on Micah," Highlands coach Shawn Bennis said.

Junk defenses have tried to limit Mason's charge toward the milestone, but the point guard has patiently fired away, while trying to keep his team in the playoff chase.

The 6-foot-2 Mason faces double and sometimes, triple-teams just about every game.

"I hate them," Mason said of the defensive schemes. "It gets frustrating, even though you know it's coming. I wish someone would just play me man (-to-man)."

But finally, the milestone came.

Fittingly, Mason's historic hoop came on a 3-pointer, at the 4:01 mark of the first quarter, from the top-right of the key, in front of the home fans during Highlands' only Friday night home game of the season.

He needed seven points, and got the milestone over early in a 62-41 victory over Burrell in Section 1-AAA play.

Mason finished with 31 and now has 2,024 points, moving him into 24th place on the WPIAL scoring list.

Some might have associated the number 2,000 with Mason's basketball-shoe collection. But on this night, when fans wore T-shirts that read, "Witness," on the front, and "Micah Mason 2,000 points" on the back, the long-bombing Mason was celebrated for his prolific scoring.

"It feels good to get (the milestone) off my back," Mason said. "It was cool to get it on a 3 because I love to shoot them. I was hoping I'd get it that way or on a wide-open layup."

Which he had, but went with a soft lay-in over a dunk.

"I can (dunk), I just didn't want to," he said. "It's such an honor to be on that scoring list with so many great athletes."

Now, the historical significance.

Mason became the second boys player in Alle-Kiski Valley history to score 2,000, joining Valley legend Tom Pipkins, who scored 2,838 points in the early 1990s and still sits atop the WPIAL scoring list.

Like Mason with his 3, the high-flying Pipkins broke the WPIAL record on a dunk.

Mason is the first WPIAL player to reach the milestone since Chartiers Valley's T.J. McConnell in 2010.

"The kid has a lot on his plate," Bennis said of Mason. "There's the 2,000 thing, there's the 3-pointers' thing, there's the team not playing as well as it has in the past, and there's the Drake University thing next year. To get (the milestone), it's one thing gone off the list."

Burrell tried a 1-3 zone with a chaser on Mason, but it couldn't stop him from scoring 20 points in the second half to help Highlands (6-9, 4-4) fend off a Burrell run.

The Bucs (8-7, 2-6) cut a 21-point deficit to nine early in the fourth quarter (45-36), as Kyle Legters and Alex White hit back-to-back 3-pointers to fuel a 13-0 run.

But Mason hit two of his five 3-pointers to push the lead back to double figures, and Highlands rolled.

"You have to give credit to Micah," Burrell coach Rob Niederberger said. "He is one of the best players I have coached against -- definitely the best shooter."

Mason, featured in Sports Illustrated last season following his teeming 64-point game against Valley, is also chasing the WPIAL's all-time mark for career 3-pointers made. McConnell holds the record with 334. Mason now has 313.

After the game, when he emerged from Highlands' downstairs locker room, Mason was greeted by several young children, clad in Mason T-shirts, seeking autographs. He politely asked around if anyone had a Sharpie.

"Micah earns every accolade he gets," Bennis said. "He's is a great basketball player, but an even better human being."

Highlands got a strong effort from 6-3 senior forward Tyler Szymkiewicz, who had a season-high 16 points.

Highlands hit nine 3-pointers.

White led Burrell with 17 points, with 13 coming in the first half.

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