'Family' Ties, Full Court Pressure Help Mason Girls Light Up Foe After Blackout
Three weeks ago, before their opening round contest of the Region B tournament against Strasburg, the George Mason High School varsity girls’ basketball squad came to a consensus decision.
After having fallen to the Rams a couple days prior, the team stood in the locker room, about to take the court of second-seeded Strasburg, and shed their old warm-ups in favor of their customized t-shirts.
Printed on the front is the word “family,” which has come to symbolize the unity which has catapulted the Mustangs into the Virginia single A state semifinals, while on the back is the phrase “84 x 32 x 30.”
The phrase on the back was coined by Mason coach Bill Broderick at the beginning of the season, standing for the Mustang’s formula for success: 84 meaning the length of the basketball court, 32 standing for the number of minutes in a game, and 30 representing the number of games in a season. Should Mason play hard for the various numbers on the shirt, Broderick said, they should come out victorious.
So far, it has worked perfectly.
Following their spontaneous change against Strasburg, the Cinderella Mustangs have been on a tear, upsetting three higher-seeds in the Region tournament, taking the Region B crown, as well as making quick work of Middlesex High last Saturday in the first round of states.
Every member of the Mustang “family” entered the contest against Middlesex, which took place at Robinson High, and each one contributed to the 55-23 trouncing of the Chargers.
A two-hour power outage at the school merely delayed the tip-off, but it did very little to postpone the latest chapter in the story that has been Mason’s playoff run. With the power company unable to restore the lights in the gym, the Mustangs passed the time by talking, listening to music, and, of all things, performing the Macarena.
“I think the delay was a positive thing for us,” said senior captain Hannah Baumgardner. “They had to drive three hours, and we play better with delays anyways. It gives us more time to relax.”
Once the game finally got underway, though, the effects of the delay were evident, as neither team could muster a field goal for the first four and a half minutes of the game, leaving the score at 1-0 for the majority of the quarter.
The period ended with Mason up 10-6, thanks in large part to the hot shooting of senior Bailey Walton (15 points), who came off the bench to ignite the offense, nailing all three of her shots from beyond the arc in the first half.
Once the Mustangs hit their stride in the second period, their offense began to take shape against the slower and shorter Chargers, who were without their second leading scorer on the night. In addition, their vaunted defense, which has not given up more than 50 points since January 10, held Middlesex without a field goal in the second quarter, going into the break up 16 points.
Kim Kenny, who has had a stellar postseason, dominated the post, as the Mustang lead kept growing and growing. The junior was five for seven from the field and tacked on eight rebounds, four on the offensive end.
Broderick’s squad used a torrid third quarter to push the lead to 34 points, while holding Middlesex to a mere six points. The Mustangs emptied their bench shortly thereafter, as all but three players for Mason scored.
Sophomore Nicole Mitchell, fresh off her Honorable Mention All-Region recognition, snatched six offensive boards, as well as four assists, consistently flashing to the elbow on a high-low look to lob it in to Kenny for the high percentage bucket.
Guard Chantal Thomas provided a spark off the bench, adding six points and six rebounds, while senior Olivia Scott added four points. Fellow classmen Meredith Hamme, coming off a scorching shooting streak in the Region tournament, was held to three points, all on free-throws, but still dished out two assists and had three steals. Senior Annie Zweighaft tacked on four points and five rebounds, as well.
Baumgardner and a pair of juniors in Mayssa Chehata and Abby Stroup each had two points, while JV call-up Kelsey Kane made full use of her fourth quarter time with five defensive rebounds.
Despite the seemingly easy victory versus Middlesex, the road to the Division 2 state championship only gets increasingly tougher from here for the Mustangs (20-9). This Friday, at 2, the squad will take on Floyd County (23-3), the region C champion, who is unofficially ranked number one in the state by the Associated Press.
Floyd brings a wealth of experience—they have reached the state final four each of the past two years, including falling in last year’s final to Clarke County, a district rival of Mason—a potent offense—the Buffaloes have scored over 75 points eight times, compared to the Mustangs’ one—as well as a relentless full-court press, much like their counterparts from Falls Church.
However, Mason has already downed one top-ranked team in Strasburg, but looks ahead to the contest at Virginia Commonwealth University as the biggest game thus far. A win against the Buffaloes would place them in the final on Saturday.