All season long, George Mason High School boys varsity basketball Head Coach Chris Capannola preached to his team that a strong performance on defense would lead to a strong showing on offense. Last Friday night at home against district foe Madison County, Capannola’s message paid off in spades.
The Mustangs turned up the heat on an already unseasonably warm night and used an impressive 21 steals to coast to a 74-45 victory over the Mountaineers.
Using a suffocating full court press to keep Madison County off balance, Mason used a string of five Mountaineer turnovers to push a close 10-8 game into a 22-9 lead and never looked back. By the end of the first quarter, the Mustangs were on pace to score 100 points in the 32-minute game, a pace they just barely slipped off of at halftime, doubling up Madison County 46-23.
Mason guards Mike Schwengel and Jake Johnson combined with swingman Joel Chandler to account for 15 of the teams total steals, often converting on the offensive end as well. Schwengel finished with 13 points, while Johnson and Chandler finished with 10 and nine points respectively. Jack Settje again led the way in the scoring column with 20 points.
Ben Zorn finished with nine points, as the Mustangs dominated the paint. Mason finished with a 36-20 rebounding edge, including a 17-7 advantage on the offensive end of the floor.
Schwengel also added five assists and didn’t turn the ball over at all in the contest.
“Madison has inexperienced guards and the game plan was to rattle them and force them to make mistakes,” Capannola said. “It worked very well and we capitalized on those turnovers to give us the big early lead.”
Mason kept the pressure on in the third quarter, pushing their lead to 33 before a string of fourth quarter fouls allowed the Mountaineers to creep slightly closer before the final buzzer. Madison County scored just two of their 12 fourth quarter points from the field, and went to the line seven times in the final eight minutes.
Capannola’s only regret from Friday’s outcome was likely that his message of defensive intensity didn’t take a few days earlier when the Mustangs opened their Bull Run District schedule on the road against Manassas Park.
Free throws again proved to be Mason’s Achilles Heal as the Mustangs shot 12 of 22 from the foul line en route to a 63-62 loss.
Zorn turned in another sparkling performance with 15 points and 14 rebounds to record the double-double, while Settje paced Mason with 17.
“Once again free throws killed us,” Capannola said. “We got to the line, but didn’t take advantage. Also, our intensity defensively was not there. We let them get a lot of easy baskets in the first half and it cost us the game.”
Trailing by nine points in the third quarter, the Mustangs did turn up the grit factor on defense and rallied to take a three-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. The team couldn’t pull away however, and Manassas Park clawed back for the one-point win.
“I thought we would pull away [in the fourth], but it didn’t happen,” Capannola said. “We need to learn to put teams away when we have them down. Hopefully the Madison County win showed us how to do that.”
Mason played its next district game on Wednesday night on the road against rival Clarke County. Results of that game were not available at press time.
The Mustangs return home this Friday to take on Rappahannock. Tip off is set for 7:30 p.m.