In a seesaw contest Tuesday afternoon between the Varsity Girls Basketball teams of George Mason High School and Bishop Ireton, it was only fitting that the contest could not be decided in regulation.
The first overtime contest in this year’s Chantilly’s Pohanka Classic came down to the final seconds, with the Cardinals eking out a 48-47 win in the tournament’s fifth-place game.
With 28.3 seconds remaining in overtime, Bishop Ireton freshman Bryanna Robinson sliced through the lane and banked in a layup to break a tie, but was answered immediately by a free-throw by Mason junior Nicole Mitchell. However, Cardinal junior Lindsey Baumann stuck both ends of a double bonus with nine seconds left, as Mustang freshman Bria Platenburg’s layup buzzer-beating layup was not enough to push Mason to victory.
“The kids played hard today, and that’s all I can ask from them,” Mason Coach LaBryan Thomas said. “All around they stepped up, but you can’t take anything away from Bishop Ireton. They’re a great team.”
Baumann pushed the game into overtime with two free-throws with three seconds left in regulation and finished with nine points. Robinson led all Ireton scorers with 14, while senior Alana Thurmond tacked on 12 points.
For Mason, Mitchell led the scoring effort, recording a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Freshmen Lauren Kane and Bria Platenburg tacked on eight points apiece. However, 25 turnovers spelled doom for the Mustangs, as their inability to hold on to the ball has remained a constant problem throughout the season.
“Turnovers were the difference today,” Thomas said. “You can’t win with 25, but it’s just young kids making young mistakes. We started out the year averaging 38 a game, and it’s already down [to 23], so they’ll come down, especially in district play.”
The Mustangs kicked off the tournament with a 51-30 loss to three-time defending champion Chantilly High School Saturday evening. The Chargers held Mason to just four third-quarter points, distancing themselves from the slim margin that existed at halftime. Without senior Kim Kenny, Mason lacked a dominating inside presence to counter Charger forward Megan Carey, who took over the paint with 10 points and six rebounds.
The Chantilly defense coerced 25 turnovers out of the Mustangs, while Mason managed to shoot just 16.7 percent from the field in the second half, allowing the Chargers to burst out to the insurmountable lead. Lauren Kane, normally a force on the perimeter, misfired on all six of her attempts, but was picked up by Mitchell’s seven points and Platenburg’s six.
The Mustangs rebounded in a big way on Monday afternoon, defeating Thomas Jefferson High School, 56-49. Mason built an eight-point lead early in the first quarter and never trailed in the relatively high-scoring affair, holding on despite a late Colonial rally.
Mason overcame the shooting woes that hurt them against Chantilly, connecting on 44.7 percent of its field goal attempts as well as 40 percent from beyond the arc. Mitchell led the Mustangs in scoring, hitting five of seven from the field to finish with 13 points and eight rebounds. Lauren Kane shook aside her scoreless effort against the Chargers, finishing with 11 points, while Platenburg added 12. Senior Abby Stroup tacked on eight points to round out the top scorers for Mason.
Mason’s swarming pressure defense, which alternated between man-to-man, a full-court press and a half-court press, dissuaded any potential Colonial comeback. Junior Chantal Thomas, in just her third game back from a knee injury, connected on five clutch free-throws down the stretch, as the Mustangs reached the line 31 times.
“Chantal’s in there battling so having her back only makes us better,” Thomas said. “When we get her and Kim Kenny back, all those young players that have been playing a lot in this tournament will get that much better. [Freshman] Leah Roth’s been holding her own, so I think we’re going to be good.”
Mason heads into the New Year with an 8-3 record and begins the march in defense of its Region B title with a January 6 match-up at Bull Run District rival Madison County. Even with the losses against the tough competition, Coach Thomas feels as though his team is ready for the part of the season that counts.
“Still, all roads run through Strasburg, but we’ll get there,” Thomas said. “We have the pieces it’s just a matter of putting them together. We have the intensity, but we just have to take care of the ball .We’ll get there though, I know it.”