All is well with the George Mason High School girls basketball team.
After a pair of losses at the Diamond State Classic in Delaware to conclude 2010 — back-to-back losses by the two-time defending Virginia State champions an uncommon occurrence — the Mustangs got back on the right track last week.
Mason dominated Tuscarora High at home last Wednesday 61-31, and thrashed Manassas Park High on the road 70-27 on Saturday.
“Just getting the kids focused, getting ready for the stretch run,” said Mustangs head coach LaBryan Thomas. “We’re going into District now, just getting everybody focused and ready to play.”
Thomas credits his team’s defense more than its offense for the two convincing wins. A basic coaching philosophy is that defense and turnovers create opportunities. Plus, no matter how much a team scores, defense wins championships.
“It’s our defense,” Thomas said before practice last week. “This team will score. We can score at will. We’ve got 13 players and they all can score. It’s the defensive pressure I’m pleased about.
“We’re a pressure team,” Thomas added. “When we get turnovers in the backcourt, it’s lay ups for us.”
Though coming off consecutive losses, and losing three of the team’s last four games to close out the calendar year, Thomas was not overly concerned. He chalked it up to the growing pains of a young team facing stiff, non-conference competition.
“They were non-conference games, and they were against very good teams,” Thomas said. “With this young team playing good talent like that, it puts us in position to get better in the long run. It happens. That’s way we scheduled these for the beginning of the year instead of the end of the year.”
Amanda Rolander, the only senior on the team, added “there were some issues that we addressed as a team, that we’re going to have personal goals each game. I think that will help.”
Thomas credits Rolander, though she doesn’t start, with keeping the Mustangs on point.
“She keeps everybody together and focused,” he said. “She’s a great young lady. She keeps everybody grounded.”
The Mustangs are in the middle of three road games in 11 days. On Tuesday, the team was scheduled to travel to Rappahannock County High School before it was cancelled due to the expected snow. Their game at Madison County High School is still on for Thursday.
Traveling is no small feat for this squad in the spread-out Bull Run District. Madison County High, for example, lies approximately 80 miles away from Mason High. The team will leave around 3 p.m. to avoid rush hour traffic and get to Madison in time for the junior varsity game at 6 p.m., and won’t return to Falls Church until nearly midnight.
The Mustangs work on homework, nap, and listen to music to pass the time.
“It’s something we have to prepare for,” Rolander said of long traveling. “It would be hard for any team.”
“I think definitely the most important thing to make sure is that at the beginning of the year everyone is on the same mental page,” she added. “You have to make sure everyone is together.”
Mason’s next game is 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Madison County High School.