By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Field High School’s gymnasium is a good place for Ravenna’s Mason Ross.
Two years ago, then a sophomore playing on the JV team, Ross shot incredibly well to lead his team to a win, which earned him some of his first meaningful varsity minutes of his career in the night cap.
It may not have been identified as such at the time, but ultimately it became the turning point of his prep career. That 2020-21 season, he continued to play varsity minutes, then became a regular starter and key contributor as a junior in 2021-22.
This year, now a senior, Ross is one of the Ravens’ leaders.
And he certainly led on Friday.
In dominating fashion on the court that started it all for him a couple of year ago, leading the Ravens to a 74-56 Metro Athletic Conference victory over the host Falcons.
The win keeps Ravenna in a tie atop the MAC standings alongside Woodridge, which defeated Springfield on Friday.
The Ravens had entered Friday in a three-way tie for first place, but Norton was defeated by Coventry on Friday and is now one game back of the Ravens and Bulldogs.
Ross, whose minutes were controlled because of the Ravens’ double-digit advantage, finished the game with category-filled stat sheet.
He scored 13 points on just six shot attempts, distributed seven assists, grabbed five rebounds, blocked seven shots and had three steals.
His presence was felt from the start, but in an almost quiet way because of how he plays within the pace of the game without forcing the action.
It is an approach that Ravenna head coach Marlon Jones has become accustomed to, but has not lost appreciation for.
“Mason is such a great player for us. He is a player all coaches would love to have,” said Jones, whose team improved to 12-3 on the season and 9-2 in league play. “He is very coachable, and he would run through a wall for us and for his teammates.
“Mason is a very patient player, and he always plays within the flow of the game,” Jones added. “Sometimes that means he will score more and sometimes that means he will pass more. He just wants the team to do well, regardless of how we get there. To see him as a sophomore and how he has evolved and grown as a player is amazing.”
In typical fashion, though, it was not just Ross shining for the balanced Ravens.
It was actually Justice Haven (7 rebounds) that led Ravenna in scoring with 16 points, coming alive with a pair of 3-pointers in a 31-point second quarter for the Ravens that blew the game wide open.
Maykai O’Neal, Marcus Gibson, Daveon Gregory and Ross all also hit 3s in the offensive barrage that took Ravenna’s 13-5 first-quarter lead and exploded it to a 44-17 halftime advantage.
While Justice had a big second quarter, it was fellow senior Emmanuel Miller that owned the third quarter. He scored eight of his 10 points in the third to complete a double-double with 12 rebounds.
In total, 11 Ravenna players scored and the Ravens shared the ball, collecting 23 assists on 29 made field goals. The Ravens connected on 29-of-61 (48 percent) from the floor in the game, including a hot 8-of-17 from 3-point range.
“As a staff, we had looked back at our last few games, and we simply had not been shooting the ball well from 3-point range,” Jones said, “so we put in a lot of work this week on our shooting. We put up a lot of shots in practice so to come out tonight at knock down as many as we did, it felt good to see that hard work pay off.”
Trailing by 27 entering the third quarter, Field head coach Steve Beshara had simple messages for his team: Don’t quit playing hard and try to win the second half.
While the loss says one thing, the Falcons did answer the two challenges they were presented with at halftime.
The Falcons did not fall back in effort in the third and fourth quarters, outscoring the Ravens 39-30 in the second half.
“I like that we kept playing hard,” Beshara said. “Nobody was lazy, and I cannot point fault at the effort our guys were giving. I am proud of them.”
Ultimately, though, Beshara admitted that his team did not come ready to match Ravenna’s speed and offensive efficiency.
“Ravenna came out ready to play, and we did not,” he said. “We were down 6-0 quickly, and (Ravenna) was sprinting out in transition and we didn’t keep up. By the time we fixed our transition defense, then we were slow on closeouts in the halfcourt set, and we gave up a lot of 3-point shots in the second quarter. The game never stops. So once we figure out (transition defense), then it becomes, ‘What’s next?’ — and for us the ‘what next’ was that we didn’t guard well enough in the halfcourt.”
Field’s offense struggled to find easy and clean looks. The Falcons made just 18-of-69 shots for the game (26 percent), including 2-for-17 from 3s, and were 16-of-28 (57 percent) from the free-throw line.
The Falcons (2-13, 1-9 MAC) were led in scoring by Joe Crawford, who finished with 17 points. Manny Smith and Trevor Dixon each scored eight points, with Smith pulling down a team-high seven rebounds.
Field senior guard Braxton Baumberger exited the game early in the first quarter with a lower-leg injury and did not return.