By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WOODSTOCK -- Frank Mason knew he could dunk it at any time, but he saved his only one of the game for just the right time.
The Massanutten Millitary Academy post-graduate guard went soaring in the air for an alley-oop off an inbounds play and came down with a thunderous dunk which helped give MMA a final surge in its 101-86 victory over Rise Academy on Friday night.
The game was part of the First Bank Invitational held at Central. MMA will play in the championship game today at 4 p.m. against Believe Prep Academy. The consolation game between Mt. Zion Academy and Rise will be played at 2 p.m. Believe Prep beat Mt. Zion, 79-73, in the first semifinal.
With MMA clinging to an 11-point lead with a little over nine minutes left in the game, Mason, who has already signed to play at Kansas next year, made his dunk, which brought the crowd to life.
"I knew I was athletic enough to do it," Mason said. "It was nice. It got the crowd more energized. I like getting the crowd excited."
The play started a fury of dunks, which helped MMA pull away. MMA had three dunks in four possessions during an 8-0 run which gave it a commanding 83-65 lead.
MMA started off a little slow and trailed by as many as five early in the game. MMA used a 19-4 run to build a 22-12 lead with 9:24 left in the first half. Deandre Burnett had six points during the spurt to lead MMA.
Rise Academy was able to close to within 28-23 with 4:52 left in the first half, but MMA responded with a run of its own.
MMA used an 11-4 run to take a 12-point lead, and eventually led 46-33 at the half.
"I think we survived tonight," MMA coach Chad Myers said. "It wasn't our best effort. We had stretches where we played well. We need to stay more focused."
Rise Academy would get no closer than 10 points during the second half. Any time Rise Academy would make a run, MMA answered with one of its own.
Rise Academy was led by Kyle Kuzma, who had 22 points.
Burnett had 21 points to lead MMA, while Mason added 18.
MMA defeated Believe Prep Academy earlier this season in overtime by eight points.
"It's going to be a real battle," Myers said of today's final. "I'm sure they wanted us to win, and are excited to play us again. They're a good team.
"We're going to have to play a better [today]. We're going to have to play 40 minutes of basketball, not 22 like we did [Friday night]."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org