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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

'Coolest cat on floor' bound for Batesville

Thursday, April 23, 2009

DOTTED LINE: Melbourne standout Chase Massey signed a letter of intent April 16 to play basketball at Lyon College next season. Back row, from left are: Mike Watson, Tim Massey and Kevin Jenkins; front row: Cameron Massey, Chase Massey and Cheryl Massey. Photo/Mullins
It's kind of hard to put into words just what Chase Massey meant to the Melbourne Bearkatz this season, but a good place to start would be late in the semi-finals of the Class 2A State Tournament.

After an exhausting battle with the Abundant Life Owls the night before, a game in which Melbourne won 58-56, the physically and mentally drained Bearkatz were fighting for their lives against a fiery bunch of Hackett Hornets for the right to go to Hot Springs to play in the Class 2A title game.

Melbourne had dodged a bullet when Hackett missed a point-blank shot at the buzzer that would have given the Hornets the victory. Instead, the contest headed to overtime locked at 42-all.

That's when Massey proved just what he meant to the Katz this year.

Cool as a cucumber, Massey ended the OT frame by hitting six straight free throws, scoring six of his team's eight points in overtime to give Melbourne a 50-44 win and berth in the 2A championship game.

That's the kind of performance that landed Massey on the All-State team and also earned him a scholarship to play basketball at Lyon College in Batesville next season. Massey signed his letter of intent April 16 in a ceremony held inside the brand-new Arena at Melbourne, which was also the site of Massey's big-time clutch shooting from the charity strip in the state tournament.

Massey's performance in the state tournament was just what his coach expected out of the 6-2 senior in such pressure-packed moments this year.

"All my players had a role on the team this year and he was the one at the end of the game that I wanted to have the ball in his hands," said Melbourne Head Coach Mike Watson. "I wanted him to shoot those free throws. And he paid me back time and time again, being the coolest cat on the floor."

Melbourne ultimately came up short of a state championship, falling to Conway St. Joseph in the finals, but the trip to Hot Springs marked the first time the school had ever played in the state finals.

But for Massey, it was his second straight trip to play for all the marbles. Last year, he was part of the Izard County Cougar squad that brought home the Class 1A state championship from Hot Springs. Massey, along with standout Spencer Caraway, who was also a key cog in the Cougars' championship run last year, transferred from Izard County to Melbourne this year.

Massey averaged 14 points and five rebounds a game this year for Melbourne, but his biggest contributions couldn't be found in just plain numbers alone.

"He has just been a coach on the floor for us all year long," said Watson. "Of course, coming from a dad who is a coach and being around the game his whole life -- from starting out as a young fan to sitting on the bench next to his dad as he was growing up -- has given him the perspective of being able to look at the game through the eyes of a coach. And that's meant everything to me this year."

That, and Massey's uncanny ability to either drill a shot from the 3-point arc or take the ball to the rim for a backboard-shaking, two-handed jam, made a load for opposing players this year.

"There's always a spot on the floor for shooters and this guy can fill it up," Watson said. "When you have the ability to put the ball in the hole, you'll play. And Chase's best years of basketball are ahead of him, in my belief. He's still yet to fill out. When you add about 20 pounds of muscle to a 6-2 frame, and the guy can handle and shoot the ball, you've got a good ballplayer."

A good ballplayer that Lyon College Head Coach Kevin Jenkins has watched grow up over the past several years.

"Chase is a player that we've been around since his freshman year -- and even before that, when he would come to camp (at Lyon College). So he was a player that we knew," said Jenkins. "And one of the things we liked about him was his athletic ability. He can put the ball on the floor, get to the basket and he shoots it really well. So that makes it difficult for people to just stand back and guard him. The last couple of years, he's been a really good floor leader, too. And for us, one of the important things is to get guys from good programs. Guys that know how to win and guys that know what it takes to win. And he brings that to us."

Lyon College is graduating three seniors this year, leaving plenty of returning players for next year's squad. That should allow Massey ample time to find his footing, instead of being immediately thrown into the fray as a freshman next year.

"I think the biggest adjustment he will have to make is just the physicalness of playing at the college level. He'll have to get in the weight room and get stronger," Jenkins said. "But he's been down and played with my guys and has fit in well. I think his athleticism will let him get a shot off against somebody bigger than he is, because of his lift. He's our first signee this year, so we're really excited about adding him to our program. And the biggest thing is, he'll be good for our basketball team, but he'll also be good for our school as a whole."

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