By Liz Lizama
George Mason High School’s boys varsity basketball team fared much better in this year’s Joe Cascio Classic holiday tournament hosted at Falls Church High School this week.
While last year the team was eliminated in the first round by the host team, the Mustangs beat Lee High School 65-53 this past Saturday to advance to the semifinals against host Falls Church High School in a rematch of last year. This time around, the Mustangs pressed on to win 66-46 in Monday night’s game. With that win, they reached the tournament championship on Tuesday night, where they lost to Yorktown High School 44-26.
“Last year we didn’t want to be there…it was Christmas break, we wanted to be home or whatever,” said Mason senior guard Daniel Donovan.
“But I think this year we all realized that this time, what we’ve got is pretty special and everybody wanted to go to this tournament. We were shooting around before the [Falls Church] game and you could tell everyone wanted to win.”
Despite the Mustangs’ determination to win, the Yorktown Patriots got the best of them in the tournament’s final round on Tuesday night. The Patriots led the Mustangs 22-13 at halftime, and then busted their lead wide open with a 14-2 third quarter. The Mustangs outscored the Patriots 11-8 in the fourth quarter.
Yorktown’s senior forward James Carroll scored 13 points in the championship game and was named tournament MVP. Yorktown senior guard Edmund Pendleton also scored 13 points, followed by junior guard Daniel DeButts with 10 points.
Mason junior forward Robert Tartt led the Mustangs in scoring with eight points, followed by a pair of forwards, senior George DeMars and sophomore Dustin Green, who scored four points each in the championship game.
In Saturday’s first round match, Lee kicked off the game with a 9-2 lead, but Mason finished the first half up 39-18. Lee managed to cut the score to 47-35 in the third quarter, but the Mustangs held their lead to win the game.
Junior guards Elliot Mercado and Josh Allen led Mason in scoring with 14 and 13 points, respectively, followed by junior center Douglas Bossart with 11. While Mason missed half of its free throw attempts, the team hit seven three-pointers, which helped drive their win.
“We handled their pressure really well for the most part, and since we don’t see too much pressing in the Bull Run, it worried me, especially when Lee jumped out to a 9-2 lead and we had a couple turnovers at the beginning,” said Mason head coach Chris Capannola.
Much excitement preceded the semifinals game against Falls Church, a school less than five miles away from Mason. “A lot of the kids know each other, so this is a real neat opportunity to play them,” Capannola said.
Mason opened the game strong, holding Falls Church down 11-0 for the first five minutes. The Mustangs led for the entire game and scored a season-high 46 points in the first half.
“We moved the ball great in the first half,” Capannola said. “We got jump shots, layups, run outs, and all was within the context of what we try to do.”
Junior forward Robert Tartt led the Mustangs with 15 points followed by Bossart and Allen with 14 point each. The Mustangs defense also played a major role in the win.
“Our defense on Thatcher was pretty good, and we had a size advantage that we took advantage of,” Capannola said.
The team blocked nine shots and pressured the Jaguars on a number of other shots.
“Our presence inside, especially with Bossart down there, allows our guards to defend tighter knowing Douglas is back there to clean up any penetration,” he said.
The Mustangs return to regular season action tomorrow night at Madison County High School and play back-to-back home games next Tuesday and Wednesday against Warren County High School and The Avalon School, respectively.
Drew Costley contributed to this report.