Arts & Entertainment

‘Cinderella’ Lady Mustangs Advance to State Tournament

MEREDITH HAMME (14) battles for the ball in the paint. (Photo: Bob Morrison, Bonnie Briar Productions, LLC)String of Upsets Nets Mason High Region B Title

The George Mason High School girls varsity basketball team slipped on their glass slippers this past week, upsetting three higher seeds to claim the Region B Tournament and earn a spot in the Group A Virginia State Tournament, continuing what Mason Head Coach Bill Broderick refers to as their “Cinderella season.”

After their Bull Run season ended with a loss at Strasburg in the district championship, the Mustangs' third loss to the Rams this year, Mason avenged their previous slips with a triumphant performance in the opening round of the Region B Tournament.

Mason, the tournament's seventh seed, rarely trailed throughout the contest last Wednesday, finally wearing down the Rams. With a 37-31 victory, the Mustangs were just the second team to have beaten Strasburg the entire season.

Senior Meredith Hamme and junior Kim Kenny kicked off what would be an unbelievable tournament for the pair, scoring 13 and 16 points respectively. Kenny also added 11 rebounds and nailed all eight of her free throws. Hamme, likewise, had a hot shooting night, hitting three three-pointers.

Mason was 12 for 13 from the charity stripe, making up for a poor shooting night from the field. They also totaled 34 rebounds as a team. Sophomore Nicole Mitchell, named Honorable Mention All-Region following the tournament, was held scoreless, but still had 11 boards.

Following their David-esque upset of Goliath Strasburg, Mason journeyed to Eastern Mennonite University to take on the No. 3 seed, Randolph-Henry High, with the winner earning a birth in the state tournament.

Hamme led all Mason scorers with nine points, all off free-throws, as well as five steals to pace the Mustangs to a 43-31 win. Kenny and senior Bailey Walton each added eight points, with Kenny snatching 11rebounds. Senior Annie Zweighaft rounded out the top scorers with seven points.

Mason took a 10 point lead into the break against Randolph-Henry, but a four-point third quarter allowed their opponents to climb back into the contest. However, the Mustangs stretched in the final period to seal a spot on the state tournament.

Last Saturday in the Region B final, Mason eked out a win against upstart Wilson Memorial, 50-48, in one of the more exciting and well-played games in Mason’s entire season.

The Hornets, who were the fifth seed in their own district tournament but rolled into the contest against Mason on a seven-game winning streak, were grossly undersized against the Mustangs, as their tallest player gave up four inches to Kenny.

Hamme and Kenny led all Mason scorers once again with 12 and 11 points, respectively, while Kenny had 13 rebounds. The Mustangs frequently ran isolation plays in the post with Kenny, as they were able to lob the ball in to the Second Team All-District player with relative ease for high percentage shots.

Zweighaft had six points and four assists, but it was her deadly free-throw shooting down the stretch which sealed the victory. With under 10 seconds left, the senior hit two shots to put the game out of reach.

Mitchell added eight points and six rebounds, sophomore Chantal Thomas tacked on five points, while Walton and senior Olivia Scott rounded out the scoring with four points apiece.

A desperation heave at the buzzer by Julie Young (17 points) of Wilson cut the final score down to two.

According to Mason players, it was ultimately the unity of the squad which has spurred Mason’s run to the Single A Division 2 State Tournament. On the front of their new warm-up jerseys is simply the word “family,” perfectly capturing the essence of this close-knit team.

“The shirts are just a symbol of who we are and what the season has been,” said Hamme. “We are a family, just caring for each other. It’s not about winning and losing so much as it is about staying together as a family.”

If the Mustangs (19-9) are to continue this fairytale postseason, they will certainly need every bit of family unity this Saturday when they take on an extremely athletic team from Middlesex (22-5), the Region A runners-up.

With a win against Middlesex, Mason would move on to the state semifinals the following weekend at the Seigel Center at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Directions to this Saturday’s contest at Robinson High School against Middlesex can be found on the Mason High athletics website, www.masonathletics.org. Tip-off this Saturday is at 4 p.m., as the game is sandwiched between two other AAA state quarterfinal matchups.

“While family within the team has been an overriding theme this season, we certainly want the Mason and Falls Church family to come out and support us this Saturday,” said Hamme.