The baby-faced assassin from Highlands grew up
A word of advice to Highlands fans: you know that image of an innocent, pint-sized Micah Mason dribbling through his legs and showboating with a basketball twice his size, all for your halftime entertainment?
Forget about it.
Mason has grown up — fast.
And forget halftime shows. These days, the Highlands sophomore guard does his entertaining in big moments of big games.
He may still have that baby face, but his game is as threatening as it is clutch.
Mason will lead Highlands (14-9) against West Allegheny (14-8) in tonight's WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinal at Fox Chapel.
"Micah has really stepped up his game," Highlands senior guard Mike Trenski said. "He has gotten better and better and is becoming a leader."
Especially in the postseason.
The 6-foot Mason scored a game-high 30 points, including eight in the second overtime, in Highlands' thrilling, 80-77 upset victory over fourth-seeded Laurel Highlands Tuesday. He made six of Highlands' 13 3-pointers as the Golden Rams overcame losing a 20-point lead in the third quarter.
Laurel Highlands used an impressive 30-5 run to regain control. But Mason calmly hit the game-tying 3 to force overtime.
"We call him 'the baby-faced assassin,'" Highlands play-by-play announcer Mike Choma said. "He is only a sophomore but always hits the big shot when we need it and he doesn't seem to get excited about it. He is just doing his job."
Mason burst onto the playoff scene in last year's semifinals when he scored 14 of his team-high 19 points in the fourth quarter of a shocking, 66-59 upset of No. 1 seed Chartiers Valley.
Now taller and gaining definition physically, Mason is also transforming his game.
"He's doing more in terms of going to the hoop now for us," Highlands coach Shawn Bennis said. "He is a more well-rounded player."
Basically a set 3-point shooter early on, Mason is now dangerous in traffic, too.
Don't be mistaken, this kid can still flat-out shoot. Mason has a remarkable 176 3s in his career. But he's the perfect player for Highlands' dribble-drive offense, which thrives on frantic, kick out-and-shoot sequences.
"I think I am maturing and trying to do more to help the team," Mason said. "I have worked on getting better off the dribble."
Mason and Trenski form one of the top scoring tandems in the state. Mason averages 19.8 points per game, Trenski a team-best 21.2.
Mason has complemented Trenski, a senior and another long-range threat. Trenski added 25 points in the Laurel Highlands win. He had 30, and Mason, 23, in a 93-82 preliminary-round win over New Castle.
Mason said Highlands' first-round win — and the dramatic way it transpired — could propel the Rams further. They reached the Class AAA final last year.
"That (win) was a big momentum boost for us," Mason said. "We had some foul trouble and that hurt us. But we kept coming back."
Highlands is the No. 13 seed and had to play a game just to get into the first round.
Now, the Rams are among the final eight in Class AAA and aren't about to take their foot off the gas pedal.
"Teams might take us lightly," Mason said. "But that's OK with us."