In a packed Mustang Gymnasium thundering wall-to-wall with screaming fans and stomping feet, perhaps the most noise came on the court, as the George Mason High School varsity boys basketball team staged a furious rally, storming back from a 15-point halftime deficit to come within six points of tying the state’s No. 1 team Friday night.
Though Madison County High School (13-0), the defending Region B and Bull Run District champions, ultimately pulled out a 61-49 win, the Mustangs’ best effort of the season proved them capable of nearly upsetting the high-flying, star-studded Mountaineers.
“It feels like we let one get away,” Mason coach Chris Capannola said. “I don’t know what our mindset was but we played like we need to play. These guys believed like they could win and all we had to do was shoot a decent percentage and we would have won this game.”
In traffic with 1:07 to play, Mason senior Ben Stewart followed up a blocked layup by classmate Mike Wolfe with a put-back of his own, cutting the Madison lead to six. After a quick timeout by Capannola, the Mountaineers’ Casey Campbell came off the inbounds play and found a wide-open lane to cement the victory and halt the comeback.
Madison opened up a 32-17 lead at halftime thanks to 14 points by senior Logan Terrell, who was a near-perfect 7-for-8 from the field at the break. Despite holding Madison to zero points for the first 3:10 of play, Madison broke open a 14-11 game with an 18-6 run in the second quarter behind a dominating display in the paint and some cold shooting by the Mustangs.
“We had a bunch of good looks but we just couldn’t convert one,” Capannola said
Mason freshman Aaron Young was the lone deep threat for Capannola’s unit, who shot 5-for-20 from beyond the arc. All five came from Young, who finished with 15 points.
“We had them except for two or three runs and that’s how they came out on top,” Wolfe said. “It was exciting in that fourth quarter we finally had the school on our side with the bleachers filled for the first time in three years.”
After keeping the score nearly even throughout the third quarter, Mason turned it on in the fourth behind the dominating paint play of senior Jordan Cheney. Cheney, a Swarthmore College recruit, who finished with 14 points and 15 boards on the night.
The Mustangs’ defense limited the Mountaineers to their second-lowest offensive output of the year thanks to a sagging 1-3-1 zone and a full-court pressure defense. Still, the first-half deficit proved too much to overcome.
Mountaineer guard Logan Terrell led all scorers with 20 while senior David Falk added 19, including a tomahawk, one-handed slam that brought the house down and even had some Mason fans bowing in respect and awe.
“When the time got tough we just came together,” Terrell said. “We just kept our composure in the fourth quarter, so it was a great win. It was definitely a tough environment to play in.”
Aside from Young and Cheney’s combined 29 points, Mason received little offensive production, especially on the wings. Wolfe, sophomore Jeremy Stewart and junior Patrick Rollo were a combined 0-for-7 from the three-point line as no other Mustang had above four points.
Despite the loss, Mason saw many positives in the game. The effort, Capannola noted, was the best he had seen all year from his team.
“We got really amped up for this and they wanted to make a statement,” he said. “And they did. We played blow for blow with these guys; I don’t know what else we could really ask for.”
The Mustangs (6-9, 1-1) now turn their attention to rival Clarke County (8-5, 2-0), winners of three straight including a 63-48 victory over Manassas Park, in a battle between the two squads that should battle for second place in the district.