The George Mason High School academic team may have come in third at the end of the Bull Run District regular season, but the team trampled district foes to come out on top and win the district title Thursday.
The tournament, rescheduled from Jan. 21 due to inclement weather, was the first postseason competition for the rookie team formed after the graduation of last year’s six-senior squad that secured several postseason titles in the members’ time at George Mason. The win makes the 12th district title for the Mustangs in the past 13 years.
With an 11-3 record, Mason was behind Manassas Park High School (12-2) and Clarke County High School (13-1) at the end of the regular season, and would face both rivals at the district tournament.
Mason dropped William Monroe High School in the first game of the competition, 330-130, and advanced to the second game to face Manassas Park. In another decisive victory, 265-185, the Mustang team moved on to its third game of the tournament to face Clarke County.
Both Mason and Clarke County were undefeated in the double-elimination tournament, but only one team would maintain that record at the end of the face-off.
Heading into the final round of the match-up, Clarke County had taken a 150-135 lead. The Mustangs, however, turned the game around, correctly answering eight tossup questions in a row to win the round, 105-40, and the game, 240-190.
Clarke County went on to play Manassas Park in a game that would determine which team would be eliminated and which would advance to a rematch with Mason. Manassas Park won, and needed two wins against Mason to win the title.
The Mustangs wouldn’t let them have it, though. They took an early 115-30 lead in the first round and maintained it in otherwise evenly matched play to win 280-200. Of the 50 questions asked to both teams, 49 were answered correctly, a testament to the abilities of both district-topping teams.
“This score is incredible,” Coach Jamie Scharff said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen before in all the years I’ve coached.”
Junior Liam O’Connell, who led Mason in scoring, was named the most valuable player of the tournament. During the last round of competition with William Monroe, O’Connell answered 11 of the 15 tossup questions correctly, which Scharff says is an unusual feat.
“Only players with lots of knowledge in a lot of areas can do that,” Scharff said.
Fellow team members and seniors Misha Terman, Chris Earman, Matt Abel, Matthew Irvine, and team captain Michael Irvine, also contributed to the win, rounding out this year’s team at the district tournament.
With the district tournament victory, the Mason academic team will move on to the Region B tournament, scheduled for Saturday at Luray High School. Clarke County secured a spot in that tournament last month by finishing the regular season with the best record in the district. Eight teams in all from four area districts will compete, and the top two teams at that competition will move on to the state tournament at the College of William and Mary Feb. 25.
While the regional tournament will pit the Mustangs against several unfamiliar opponents, Scharff says the Bull Run District’s track record of success is a promising sign going into the regional tournament.
“The past few years our district has been the strongest in the region, but all it takes is a couple of dedicated students to make a team a lot better, so we never know what the competition will be like until we get there,” Scharff said. “I like the way our team is improving rapidly, so I feel good about our chances to advance.”