The George Mason girls basketball team have been going to the Virginia 1-A state tournament for several years now and have won two of the last three state championships. Last season, they lost in the semifinals to Radford High School. According to head coach LaBryan Thomas, the loss motivated them to work harder on fitness and skill in the off-season.
“It shows on the court right now because they are playing really, really well,” he said.
If their record and early dominant victories this season are any indication, the hard work did pay off. Another strength that the Lady Mustangs gained over the off-season was senior forward Lauren Kane.
Kane started this season recovered from an ankle injury that kept her sidelined for most of last season. She was injured early in the season and did not return to the team’s line-up until right before the state tournament, where she contributed 22 of the team’s 102 total points in the tournament. In just the last two games of this season, though, Kane has topped that performance with six points and six rebounds in a Dec. 14 win over the Madison County Mountaineers (42-29) and 17 points and five rebounds in a Dec. 16 win over the Clarke County Eagles (55-36). Thomas said that Kane, along with sophomore center Ashley Alexander, provide outside shooting that relieves junior forward Stephanie Cheney of double teams.
“Don’t get me wrong, she’s a great player, but without outside shooting teams, [opponents are] able to put more pressure on Stephanie,” Thomas said of Cheney, the Bull Run District player of the year last year, the team’s leading scorer, and most obvious target of double teams.
In the district opener against the Mountaineers, Cheney tallied 15 points and nine rebounds while Alexander added seven points. Against the Eagles, Cheney scored 21 points and snatched six rebounds and Alexander grabbed nine rebounds and scored five points. Since both games were lopsided wins for the Lady Mustangs, the Cheney, Kane and Alexander trio sat out for substantial amounts of time.
In the team’s only loss this season, Mason was slowed by the Liberty Eagles (43-49) in their opening game of the Battlefield High School Tip-Off tournament on Dec. 8, but bounced back to beat the Loudoun County Raiders (64-58) on Dec. 10 in their second game in the tournament. In the game against Loudoun County, freshman forward Katie Goodwin scored nine points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Thomas said that defense is the primary focus on the Lady Mustangs, but he noticed the team was not able to play their fast-pace, up and down game with outside shooting in the loss against Liberty.
The Mustangs played Central High School last night, but results from the Mustang game against the Falcons were not available at press time. Mason plans to play in the Pohanka Chantilly Classic over the winter break, starting with a Dec. 27 game at Chantilly High School.