The speed of Chantal Thomas. The dominance of Nicole Mitchell inside. The sweet shot of Lauren Kane.
The defending state champion Mason High School girls basketball team was firing on all cylinders last Saturday in the quarterfinal round of the Virginia A Division 2 playoffs, defeating Northampton 70-19 at Robinson High in Fairfax.
“We can’t play down to our competition,” said Thomas, who finished with 15 points. “Our ultimate goal is to get back to the championship.”
Getting back to the excellence the team achieved last year when it won the state title is the driving force motivating the Mustangs.
The contest against Northampton was never close, and the lack of suspense lead to wide smiles – and more playing time – from the bench. The Mustangs jumped out to a 25-0 lead in the first seven minutes, and lead 27-2 after the first period. Those advantages increased to 47-4 at halftime and 61-12 after three quarters. Ten different players scored during the contest.
Thomas saw her team “playing hard the whole time, pushing each other, finishing strong,” and believes that her squad is well-prepared to give the state title another run. The Mustangs face Chilhowie High School in the semifinals tonight, Thursday, at 7 p.m. at VCU’s Siegel Center in Richmond, and the finals are Saturday at 3 p.m. at the same location.
“Our district is probably the hardest district there is,” said Thomas, a senior. “Our district prepares us for what we face in the regionals and what we face in the states.”
Oddly enough, it almost seems that the games have gotten easier the deeper Mason has gone in the playoffs, instead of harder like one might expect. The Mustangs and their record of 21-2 have won their last four games by an average score of 65-29.
It is fitting that fellow senior Nicole Mitchell also scored 15 points for the Mustangs in the defeat of Northampton, as she and Thomas share leadership duties. Sophomore Lauren Kane logged 13 points, and sophomore Bria Platenburg chipped in with 10.
A freshman last season, Kane has begun to grow into a key component to the team’s success this season. Last year’s run is fresh in Kane’s mind as her Mustangs prepare for the semifinals. Against Northampton, the recipe for success was simple.
“We came out with the mindset to play our game, and do what we always do,” Kane said.
If anything can slow down Mason, it won’t be complacency. Thomas won’t let that happen.
“I yell at them,” she laughed at how she keeps her younger team members in line. “Were a really young team. We have to stay in it.”
VCU’s Siegel Center is located at 1200 West Broad St., Richmond. Tickets for the semifinal and final games are $10.