Lady Mustangs Top Manassas Park, Face Clarke Thursday in District Finals

The George Mason High School girls basketball team keeps on rolling. The Mustangs defeated Manassas Park 76-25 at home on Tuesday in the semifinals of the Bull Run District tournament.

Mason faces Clarke County at home on Thursday in the tournament final.

The Mustangs employed their signature pressure defense early on in jumping out to a 26-5 lead at the end of the first quarter.  Mason’s ball-hawking defenders turned Cougar turnovers into points.

“That’s what gets our offense started,” said Mustang head coach LaBryan Thomas. “We get after it on defense, and everything just falls into place after that.”

Mason took a 37-10 lead into half-time, and came out strong in the second half. However, during a timeout midway though the third period and up 44-17, Thomas called for his players to stay focused for the remainder of the contest.

“He posed a challenge to me,” said Mustang sophomore Stephanie Cheney. “It’s more mental.”

Mason finished the third period on a 16-4 run en route to the blow out.

Cheney outscored Manassas Park by herself with 29 points, to go with 7 steals. Freshman Ashley Alexander added 12 points and 15 rebounds, and junior point guard Leah Roth added 11 points and 8 assists.

This was the third victory for Mason over Manassas Park this season, the previous wins 64-32 in December and 70-27 in January.

“You know their top scorers,” said Cheney of the familiarity with the team. “You know who you need to watch out for. It’s not only top scorers, it’s who really helps on defense. Coach prepares us for that. He matches up before the game starts so we’re mentally prepared for who we’re going to guard.”

After starting the season 7-5, the Mustangs have won 11 straight games to improve to 18-5 on the year. During this streak, the Mustangs have won their contests by the average score of 63-26.

While scoring buckets and making key steals is important for Mason, the two-time defending state champions, what goes on between the ears will be just as essential.

“We just tried to focus on just staying focused,” Roth said. “Mentally staying in it, not thinking about games in the future, just thinking about the game today.”

Thomas recognizes that getting his team mentally prepared will play a role as the competition toughens.

“Right now, we’re getting ready for this stretch run,” the coach said. “We have seven games left in the season, if we’re lucky enough to make it the rest of the way. Right now our focus is just staying focused, and constant defensive pressure.”

On Thursday, Mason welcomes rival Clarke County at home for the final of the Bull Run District tournament. The Mustangs defeated Clarke 61-17 on Jan. 29 and 47-42 on Feb. 4. Thomas dismisses the January meeting, as Clarke had to play back-to-back games.

“It’s going to be close on Thursday,” Thomas said. “I think it’s going to be a closer game. Clarke’s pretty quick. We won’t be able to full-court pressure them a whole lot. We’ll try in spurts, but it’s going to be a half-court game on Thursday. Both of us like to run up and down on the floor, but when we play each other, it turns out to be a half-court game.”

The Mason High School girls basketball team faces Clarke County at home on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Bull Run District final.