Prior to his junior season at Stow, Mason McMurray made a commitment to basketball. Less than two years later, the 6-8 Bulldogs forward and his teammates are reaping the benefits of his dedication.
"I think it has been a two-year process," veteran Bulldogs coach Dave Close said of his senior stretch forward. "I think he has gotten a little more serious about what it really takes. He has always been a guy that loves basketball, but the last two years he has gotten serious about it in the weight room, doing little things, working harder and playing a more complete game. … He's come a long way."
McMurray's all-around game was on full display during Tuesday night's 70-31 Suburban League cross-division victory over visiting Kent Roosevelt.
In an abbreviated work night, McMurray scored a team-high 23 points, 19 in the first half, as Stow remained perfect on the season, now undefeated in 10 outings.
McMurray dominated the entire first quarter, unleashing his complete repertoire — which resulted in his scoring the Bulldogs' final 14 points of the frame — just under his average for the season — to stake the hosts to a 17-9 lead.
After Tyler McKown sank back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Rough Riders (1-9) their lone lead of the night at 6-3, the long and athletic McMurray went baseline for a layup, then stepped behind the 3-point line and drained a trey. He added another two-point bucket to make it 11-6.
Zachary Holman hit a 3-pointer to draw Roosevelt within two, but McMurray answered with a layup, dunk and lay-in off of his own steal to punctuate a very impressive eight minutes of basketball.
McMurray's scoring pace slowed over the next two quarters, in part due to his unselfishness, which opened things up for his teammates.
"As many points as Mason had, he didn't force much," Close said. "They doubled him and he found his buddies. That was exciting."
Close also praised the work of his other stretch forward — 6-9 junior Evan Bainbridge, who tallied six points.
"We've been working with (Mason) and Evan on their post game and getting them both better in the post because both are really perimeter players," Close said. "They are having growth there."
The Rough Riders, led by McKown's 14 points, got within 20-13 in the second quarter, but the Bulldogs closed the half with a 14-3 run to go to the intermission ahead 34-16.
Stow poured it on in the second half, reeling off 20 straight points at one juncture to go up by as many as 40 points.
McMurray was the only Stow player in double figures as all 13 of Close's players who saw action registered at least two points.
Michael Heintz had six points for Roosevelt, which shot 10-of-32 (31 percent) from the field. As a team, the Rough Riders hit seven 3-pointers versus three 2-pointers.