Mason named Advocate-Messenger girls basketball coach of the year

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, March 19, 2019


Contributing Writer

From the other side of the Danville gym, Ed McKinney has developed an appreciation for Judie Mason’s work.

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“She’s one of the best coaches in the state, boys or girls,” McKinney, the school’s boys coach, said of Mason, the school’s girls coach. “She does a great job every year she coaches them, and this year was no different.”

It was different in one respect, because it was Mason’s first year back on the bench after three seasons away from the game.

The results, however, were consistent with the standard she had set for the program during her first stint as coach.

Mason has been named The Advocate-Messenger Area Coach of the Year after returning the Danville girls to their winning ways. The Lady Admirals went 24-7 and won a regional tournament game, missing out on a trip to the 12th Region Tournament finals by the slim margin of a Casey County 3-point goal in the closing seconds of their semifinal loss.

McKinney said Danville’s successful season was no surprise to him, and neither was the way Mason helped her team achieve it.

“I’ve seen her coach a lot of years,” McKinney said. “She gets her teams to play really hard. They try to do exactly what she wants them to do. Great coaches get their teams to get good shots and play all out.”

Mason, who was named the 12th Region co-coach of the year by the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches last month, said she saw the possibility of a good season when she returned in June to the job she gave up after the 2014-15 season, but she said that wasn’t what brought her back.

She wasn’t involved in basketball at all – “I didn’t go to a game for three years” – but she knew the players through her job as a physical education teacher at Danville.

“I was with them every day … and I knew what kind of kids they were,” she said. “More than anything, I got back into it because I really liked the kids. I got back in it more to try to develop them than to coach them. When I got back in, I realized they were pretty daggone good.

“We were just figuring out how to win ballgames, and I wish I’d had another month with them. But I couldn’t have picked a better year to come back.”

Led by Ivy Turner, the KABC’s 12th Region Player of the Year, Danville won 11 of its first 13 games and went on to win 10 more games than the previous season. The Lady Admirals rolled to the 12th Region All “A” Classic championship in January, though they dropped a two-point decision to Murray in the first round of the statewide All “A” Classic.

They bounced back from that loss to win six of their last regular-season games. They lost to Lincoln County in the 45th District final, then knocked out defending state champion Mercer County in the first round of the regional before falling to Casey.

“I knew we’d have a good year, but I never expected we’d be as good as we were,” Mason said. “We were a 30-foot jump shot away from maybe playing in the state tournament.

“It was fun, but I know it won’t always be this way.”

Still, Mason is looking forward to the future for a team that will return eight of its top nine players.

“These kids are still going to be good kids,” she said. “After spring break, we’re hitting the gym, not because I’m telling them to, but because they want to.”

McKinney said he has admired how well organized and focused Mason’s practices are.

“She does a great job of getting a game plan together, practicing it with kids and then going out and executing it,” he said. “She also is a great motivator who gets the best out of kids.”

McKinney said his basketball discussions with Mason often focus on that.

“It’s not about technical stuff,” McKinney said. “It’s more about how to get kids to play hard, to do the right thing, to play unselfishly.

“Everybody wants their team to play hard … and the first thing you see with her teams is just how hard they play. They get after it.”