George Mason High School’s Girls Varsity basketball team completed its preseason schedule with a scrimmage at home against McLean High School last Wednesday night.
The two teams were evenly matched for the most part, as the game was paced primarily by the defenses.
The Highlanders picked up some early momentum before succumbing to a surge by Mason’s dominant post players in the later separately-scored, eight-minute periods. The Mustangs played solid defense throughout the night, preventing a talented McLean offense from going on any sort of significant scoring runs.
“I thought the scrimmage went pretty well,” said Head Coach LaBryan Thomas. “It was a lot of what I expected. We had great leadership from our seniors, especially down low.”
Offensively, the team looked very sharp for a group playing in only its second exhibition game. The guards were patient, using as many passes as it took to get an open shot or open layup for one of their forwards.
Seniors Kim Kenny, Abby Stroup and Mayssa Chehata established their presence in the paint more and more as the night went on, both offensively and defensively. They each came up with some key rebounds, putting quick ends to many McLean possessions and also giving Mason second and even third shot opportunities. The trio also proved to be Mason’s biggest scoring threats, showing why they made a run at the state title last season. Kenny made several tough shots near the basket, including a bruising layup in traffic which resulted in a three-point play opportunity.
According to Coach Thomas, Chehata has been the biggest breakthrough so far for the Mustangs. In her final season with the team she earned a regular spot in the starting lineup for the first time in her career.
“[Mayssa] has stepped her game up this year; hard work in the fall and summer really helped her. Her shooting and rebounding have gotten better, and she’s a great leader,” said Coach Thomas.
As strong and deep as Thomas’ team is, he is the first to acknowledge their inexperience in the backcourt. With junior point guard Chantal Thomas out for several weeks with an injury, the team will look to a committee of freshman in Leah Roth, Bria Platenburg and Lauren Kane to fill in for the sidelined Thomas. Roth got the start in Wednesday’s scrimmage and played well, doing an efficient job distributing the ball to her senior weapons in the paint and finding open shots.
Junior Nicole Mitchell made the transition from forward to guard this year to help bring some varsity experience to the backcourt. Her sharp shooting and awareness will provide extra stability to a gifted, but raw backcourt. She showed her exceptional versatility in the scrimmage on Wednesday, doing everything from fighting for rebounds to bringing the ball up the court, despite being nicked up by several nagging injuries. Thomas noted that Mitchell could see action at several positions this year due to her flexibility and wide range of skills.
Thomas expects his group to continue to rise to the challenge while their star point guard is working hard recovering from her rather severe injury, which will keep her out until at least the beginning of district play in early January.
“We just need to push through and keep playing,” said Coach Thomas. “We’re a long way from reaching our peak and getting to where we want to be.”
The Mustangs opened their regular season schedule on Tuesday night in a home game against Lake Braddock Secondary, a team from the AAA Patriot District. Results were too late for press time.