It was a roller coaster Bull Run District tournament for the George Mason High School varsity girls’ basketball team last week, as their march to the Region B playoffs was filled with spectacular victories as well as disappointing defeats.
After drubbing Rappahannock County in the quarterfinals of the tournament — the last home game for eight Mustang seniors — Mason took to the road last Wednesday, entering the traditionally unfriendly confines of Clarke County High.
However, coach Bill Broderick’s team took the challenge of battling the defending state champion Eagles head-on. Even though Mason trailed at the end of the first three quarters, they clawed their way back in the final period and ultimately reigned supreme, 34-31.
Mason racked up 49 team rebounds on the night, including 31 on the defensive end, as they allowed very few second-chance shots for the Eagles. Despite 24 team turnovers and only nine assists, the Mustangs were able to control the tempo of the game due to their domination on the boards, and slowly got back into the contest.
Although the Mustangs reached the free-throw line a mere 11 times, they still generated high percentage shots in the lane, shooting nearly 50-percent from the field.
Junior Kim Kenny, a second team all-district selection, led the team with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Senior Annie Zweighaft tacked on seven points, six rebounds and four assists, while sophomore Nicole Mitchell, a first team All-District honoree, added seven points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Senior Bailey Walton rounded out the leading scorers with four points and seven boards.
With the upset over the second-seeded Eagles, the third-seeded Mustangs earned a date with Strasburg High, giving Mason a shot at knocking off two top-ranked teams in a period of four days. Despite the game being rescheduled due to inclement weather, Mason came out strong and jumped out to a four point lead at the end of the first quarter.
By getting the top Ram players into foul trouble, Mason was able to stay close for most of the game. However, in the final period, the home court advantage finally caught up to Strasburg, as they went on a 6-0 run to surge ahead, downing the Mustangs 45-35.
In the absence of Zweighaft, Mason shot a paltry 21-percent from inside the arc, and made only one three-point shot the entire night. However, they were kept in the game with their free-throw shooting, which has steadily improved as the season has worn on.
Walton led all Mason scorers with 11 points and five rebounds, while Kenny continued her impressive play down the stretch, tacking on nine points, six rebounds and three steals. Mitchell added six rebounds and two assists, but the Mustangs’ leading scorer was held in check by the Rams defense throughout the night, chipping in a mere two points. Senior Meredith Hamme and sophomore Chantal Thomas rounded out the leading scorers with five and four points, respectively.
For the most part though, the Mustangs were unable to generate a productive and consistent half-court offense, as best indicated by their five total assists. However, their outstanding defense kept them in the game up until the final buzzer.
With the loss, Mason drew the seventh seed in the expanded Region B tournament and earned a date with second seed Strasburg for the fourth time this season on Wednesday night. Results were not available at press time. Two wins in the tournament will put the Mustangs into the state bracket, held next week.