By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
A month ago, postseason awards were nowhere near the forefront of Olivia Mason’s mind. Instead, the Fairview senior, who has been voted by area coaches as the Enid News & Eagle’s All-Northwest Oklahoma Girls Player of the Year, was frantically trying to make sure the postseason lasted one more day.
It didn’t work.
Mason scored a game-high 18 points and pulled down nine rebounds in her final high school game, but the Lady Jackets couldn’t mount a late-game rally in the 2A State semifinals, falling 51-35 to eventual undefeated state champion Northeast Academy — the same team Fairview beat in the 2012 final — and finished the season at 25-5.
“It was a tough locker room to watch,” Barton said. “That whole group of seniors — Olivia in that group — it was an emotional locker room, knowing their career was over.”
Well, she’d still rather have that second state title.
“Yeah, definitely,” said Mason, the second-straight Fairview girl to take All-Northwest POY honors after Kori Fast did it last season. “But that’s how it goes.”
It’s gone that way for the Fairview senior for a while now.
On Aug. 29, 2011 — fast-pitch softball season in Fairview — Mason was trying to cover second base on a steal and reach for a high throw from home at the same time. The awkward, multi-tasking pose left Mason’s left leg exposed, “at the right place in the wrong time,” and an Alva base runner slid into Mason, just above her ankle.
“I had an ankle brace on, and a sock on,” Mason said. “One of my friend’s dads saw my ankle and there was blood (and bone). They wouldn’t let me see it.”
The injury, a compound fracture needed two surgeries over a week-long hospital stay, the first to clean the wound, and the second to repair and reset the bone.
The prognosis called for six to seven months of rest and rehabilitation. Mason likely would miss her junior year of basketball, leaving a smooth-shooting, secure dribbling, six-foot void in coach Mike Barton’s lineup.
It would mean another wait for Barton, who said the she was clearly destined to be a special play as early as fifth grade.
“I couldn’t wait to get her, and our program was on the upswing when they moved here,” Barton said. “I definitely was looking forward to getting her watching her play in fifth-, sixth-, seventh-grade games.”
This time, he didn’t have to wait long.
Mason made her season debut three months later. Another three months after that, the Lady Jackets were 2A state champions.
Which explains Barton’s first observation about Mason.
“I’ve been doing this quite a while,” the 17-year coach said. “She’s probably the toughest kid I’ve coached, and probably the best basketball player I’ve coached, just a pure basketball player.”
Mason’s leg tightened the morning of the state title game, forcing her to sit out the team’s shootaround, and possibly the game itself.
But when the Fairview coach checked on Mason, she eased his concern, though the thought of playing was a painful one.
“I could barely walk,” Mason said. “I said ‘I’ll be able to play. I’ll be fine.’”
She wasn’t, and will always kick herself for a missed layup that would have put Fairview up a point in the final minutes. She tried to lift off her injured leg for a simple right-handed lay-in, but counldn’t elevate properly, and the shot caromed off.
“I knew I was going to miss,” she said, still bashfully after more than a year.
Even limited, Mason pulled down eight rebounds in the title game, and the Lady Jackets needed almost all of her four points, beating Northeast Academy 38-36.
“Even when we won, I was kind of disappointed in myself. Now I look back and it didn’t really matter. That’s something I learned — I didn’t have to score the most.”
In her full return as a senior, Mason often did, leading the Lady Jackets in scoring (16.6 points per game), rebounds (9.4 per game), assists (108), steals (85) and blocks (33), earning Oklahoma Coaches Association and Oklahoma Girls Basketball Coaches Association honors along the way.
“She’s had a pretty stellar career,” Barton said.
Mason scored 18.5 points game in her final playoff run, but the Lady Vikings earned their payback when they eliminated Fairview in the semifinal round on their way to an undefeated state championship season.
Mason’s career will carry on. After graduation, she’ll attend the University of Central Oklahoma and play for the Bronchos, who finished 9-17 last season. Mason plans to study health science with a specialty in pediatrics.