The George Mason High School boys varsity basketball team is tied with William Monroe and Madison County high schools atop Bull Run District standings. The Mustangs handed William Monroe their first district loss Tuesday, 64-60, and Madison County defeated Manassas Park High School 71-41 that night to create the three-way tie for first.
“We had to win [against William Monroe] if we had, in my opinion, any chance of winning the district,” coach Chris Capannola said after the Mustang home victory over the Dragons. “You can’t lose at home because all these teams play well at their places.”
This game was an important test for the Mustangs. William Monroe moved from double-A to single-A standing in the Virginia High School League, joining single-A school George Mason, over the off-season.
Like the Mustangs, the Dragons lost in the semifinal round of the state tournament last season. Earlier this season, they were responsible for Madison County’s only district loss. Madison County handed George Mason its only district loss earlier this season.
“We didn’t want to be two games behind going into the second half of the district,” Capannola said. “So we put a big emphasis on taking care of business here.”
Senior guard Noel Obusan, echoed that sense of urgency.
“Before the game, I was actually nervous because I heard they were number one [in the district] and undefeated. That really got into my head,” Obusan said. “I knew I had to step it up.”
Senior forwards Dmitri Venets, Nate Ogle and Philippe Griffiths all had trouble scoring inside against an aggressive William Monroe defense that double-teamed Griffiths for most of the game.
“By the second half, we knew that that was the game plan – to take [Griffiths] away,” Capannola said. “But with our team if you take one thing away, that opens something else up. They were switching on [our] high screen and Noel was able to get the rim. He was able to shoot some outside shots as well. They fouled him and he made his free throws. [The Dragons] were big inside and we couldn’t get the ball in there as much as we wanted to, but we didn’t force it.”
Despite the Dragons’ tough play in the low-post, Venets, Ogle and Griffiths all made major contributions to the game. Venets hit a three-pointer in the second quarter that gave the Mustangs their first lead of the night. Ogle scored four consecutive points with less than four minutes left in the game to give George Mason the lead.
After a William Monroe time-out, Ogle was fouled while the Mustangs were in double bonus. He hit the first free throw and missed the second, which resulted in a scramble for the rebound. Griffiths retained possession for the Mustangs by tying the loose ball up in a jump ball and Capannola called a time-out with two minutes to play. Griffiths also hit two free throws in the final minutes of the game.
Obusan has become a scoring threat for the Mustangs when opponents focus their defensive pressure on other players.
“I like to pass the ball more because it gets the whole team going,” Obusan said. Despite the fact that he considers himself “more of a passer,” he has led the Mustangs in scoring for the past three games. He had 13- and 12-point games in wins against Strasburg and Rappahannock County high schools respectively.
Against Rappahannock County last Friday, the Mustangs jumped out to an early 23-5 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, winning 71 – 29. Griffiths had 11 points and four rebounds against the Panthers. All but two Mustang players scored in the game.
George Mason will travel to Manassas Park Thursday to take on the Cougars. They will host Madison County Jan. 18.