With 40 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Madison County guard Sam Utz snagged an offensive rebound off a missed free throw despite being the only blue jersey in a crowd of George Mason High School defenders to ice the game for the Mountaineers.
It was just that type of night for Mason, as undefeated Madison County simply out-played the Mustangs, emerging with a 56-45 victory in both teams’ Bull Run District opener on Tuesday night at the Mary Ellen Henderson gym.
The Mustangs were able to overcome a frenzy of early turnovers with lights out three-point shooting from senior Joel Chandler and junior Jamal McLean. Chandler scored 10 of Mason’s 13 first quarter points while McLean scored all of his nine points from beyond the arc. Chandler finished with 20 of the Mustangs’ 45, carrying the load on both ends of the floor. On the defensive end, Chandler had the daunting task of covering junior Logan Terrell, who entered the game averaging a double-double. Chandler more than held his own, limiting the Madison forward to five points in an overall quiet night for the All-District forward.
“[Terrell]’s a hardworking player, and I’m a hardworking player too; I think we beat him up a little,” said Chandler of his counterpart.
After allowing 11 of Madison’s first 15 points to come from inside the paint, Mustang center Jordan Cheney (three points), along with Chandler and senior forward Anthony Andrianarison (five points), closed off the Mountaineers’ scoring lanes in the second quarter. The Mason defense held Madison to just one bucket in the first five minutes of the period before surrendering a fast break layup to junior guard Jerel Carter. Carter more than made up for Terrell and Utz’s (nine points) scoring absence, netting 22 points on the night.
The wall came back down after a Carter layup as 6′ 5″ junior forward David Falk began to dominate inside for the Mountaineers. Despite getting into foul trouble, Falk’s presence on both ends of the floor was felt throughout the game, as his eight points helped build a lead Madison would not up.
After a scoring burst by Madison late in the second quarter gave them a seven point lead, Mason was able to cut the deficit to one with consecutive threes by McLean and Chandler. However, in the closing seconds of the half, Madison extended the lead to three on another fast break lay-up, giving them the momentum heading into the break.
Midway through the third quarter, Madison pulled out to an eight-point lead as a result of an efficient screen and roll offense, which resulted in wide-open shots for Carter. While executing their second half adjustments well, the Mountaineers kept George Mason out of a rhythm, managing to prevent open looks for shooters like McLean and Chandler.
“We seem to go through a drought every game,” said Mason coach Chris Capannola. “It snowballs on us, and it’s always tough to overcome it. They beat us on the glass, we rushed some shots, and we couldn’t run our press break.”
It was one of the sloppier contests all season for either side as neither squad put up quality shooting numbers. Madison missed 11 of their 24 free throws while Mason hit on only three of eight from the charity stripe.
“I thought the effort was there tonight,” Capannola said. “We were as intense as they were and the guys played hard, but we turned the ball over and you can’t do that and expect to win.”
With the victory, Madison County extended their undefeated record to 12 games while Mason fell to 2-10 for the season. The Mustangs continue Bull Run district play when they take on Clarke County on Thursday night, a game which the team is confident going into. “Clarke has been scoring in the forties which is right where we are right now,” Capannola said. “They aren’t in the seventies like they used to be, so it should be a good game.”