With a non-district schedule consisting of AA and AAA opponents, the George Mason Mustangs often have opportunities to post impressive victories. Such was the case last Friday night when the boys varsity basketball team dispatched the J.E.B. Stuart Raiders, 73-69. Then there are the games where the result is anything but impressive, such as against a seasoned and very talented South Lakes team this past Monday.
“It really can be a double-edged sword,” Mason Head Coach Chris Capannola said of his team’s tough schedule to start the season. “If you play too many South Lakes-types early, the kids lose confidence in themselves and their teammates. Yet, if you play weaker programs, you don’t challenge yourself.”
The Seahawks of South Lakes were most definitely a challenge on Monday night, downing an overmatched Mason team, 78-36. South Lakes took the lead just under three minutes into the game and never looked back, opening up a 41-20 lead at halftime. The South Lakes effort was best epitomized by leading scorer Monte Smith, who finished the game with 17 points. Smith recorded six steals on the night, often turning them into transition baskets at the other end.
The Mustangs struggled all night against the Seahawks’ pressure and 1-3-1 zone. Mason top-scorer Jack Settje never got comfortable, scoring just 10 points and coping with an injury to his right leg throughout most of the second half. Meanwhile, starting point guard Mike Schwengel spent long stretches on the bench due to foul trouble. Ben Zorn finished the game with seven points.
“Honestly, I hope that game left them with a very bad taste in their mouth and with a feeling of ‘We’re never going to let that happen again to us,’” Capannola said. “We played timid and were intimidated from the start, which is understandable since South Lakes is obviously a notch or two above us.”
The Mustangs did manage to script a much happier ending to the game on Friday night against Stuart. In a back and forth fourth quarter, the Mustangs found themselves down by five points with just over four minutes to go after a basket by Stuart’s Adam Danker Feldman, 60-55, but a 6-0 Mason run gave them the lead, 61-60 with 3:50 remaining. The Mustangs pushed their lead all the way to 71-61 before the Raiders responded for a final push.
Stuart’s Cordell Mundy made it 71-65 with a minute and a half to play, and the Raiders pulled within four with just a over a minute left. However, the Mustangs weathered the final charge to emerge with the victory.
When asked what impressed him the most in the Stuart game, Capannola responded: “The fact that we didn’t play very well, yet we kept coming at them, even after going down five in the final few minutes. We showed a lot of heart at the end of the game and didn’t give in.”
The Mustangs next face Word of Life for a home game this Friday at 7:30 p.m. and then travel to Briar Woods next Monday, Dec. 18. Mason (2-4) defeated Briar Woods in the Mustangs first game of the season.