A back and forth battle became a fourth quarter thriller and ultimately needed overtime as the Manassas Park Cougars clipped the George Mason Mustangs, 57-54, in the semifinals of the Bull Run District Tournament last Tuesday night.
With 15 seconds remaining in overtime and the score tied at 54, Manassas Park guard Daniel Bigelow dribbled frantically around the top of the key, looking for any kind of opening in the Mustang defense. When he found none, he took matters into his own hands, hoisting up a high-arcing floater with a hand in his face and just over two seconds remaining on the clock. The shot fell and so did the hopes of Mason players and fans. A final, desperate heave by Mason’s Jack Settje fell short and the Mustangs’ season ended amid the cheers of a jubilant Manassas Park bench.
“Honestly I thought we played pretty good defense on that last possession,” Mason Head Coach Chris Capannola said. “It looked like it was short when it left his hand, but the kid made a great play and my hat is off to him.”
Manassas Park rallied from six points down in the final two minutes of regulation to force overtime and ultimately claim the win. Mason junior Alex Prewitt gave the Mustangs the six-point cushion at the 3:19 mark, converting on a layup after bleeding the clock as much as he could. Manassas answered with 2:29 left to pull within four as Mason continued to hold the ball and run the clock on two consecutive possessions. Those possessions both ended in missed layups by the Mustangs however, and after a pair of baskets, Manassas knotted the score at 49. Mason controlled the ball for one final look at the basket and got a good shot away, a layup at the buzzer, but it refused to fall for the Mustangs. The teams traded the lead four times before Settje tied the game at 54 with a free throw with 46 seconds remaining. That set the stage for Bigelow’s final shot. A free throw by the Cougars with 1.1 seconds left accounted for the final score.
The win advanced the Cougars to the Bull Run District Final and a berth in the Region B Tournament. It also ended the Mustangs’ season at a mark of 11-12 on the year.
“We were outplayed by Manassas Park and didn’t execute the game plan very well,” Capannola said. “It seemed as if we were looking past them and were counting ourselves in the regionals already. The lack of focus was pretty obvious.”
Settje led the Mustangs in his final game with 19 points. Sophomore Joel Chandler also finished in double digits for Mason with 10 points.
In addition to Settje, the Mustangs’ leading scorer this season, the game was the last for seniors Kevin Montgomery, Judah Chandler, Thomas Yancey and Ben Zorn.
“We experienced a lot of inconsistency this season,” Capannola said. “The guys struggled at times to adapt to a new coach and a new core of players. I’m still proud of the guys and we will miss the five seniors. All we can do is work hard in the off-season and build on this year — learn from our mistakes and get better going forward.”