by Matt Delaney
George Mason’s girls’ basketball team flourishes in their season opener under new head coach Michael Gilroy as the Mustangs drubbed the visiting Riverside Rams 82-34 on Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Mason controlled the game from the tip as Gilroy’s versatile line-up proved to be too athletic for Riverside. The line-up consists of four interchangeable, quick players and one big at the center position who plays near the basket, relying on the team’s agility to create space for passes and shots.
“That’s what I’ve been preaching. I don’t want to have ‘You’re the 1, you’re the 2,’” Gilroy said. “I want four perimeter players that all know each spot. That makes our offense flow and makes the defense a lot harder to react to.”
After a slow first quarter Mason led 12-7, but exploded in the second quarter putting up 30 points to Riverside’s 11, ending the half on a three by senior forward Shelby Fields. By the end of the third the Mustangs tacked on another 23 points while their defense allowed a mere six points. The fourth quarter was led by Mason’s reserves scoring 17 while Riverside added 10 of their own.
Sophomores Nicole Bloomgarden and Victoria Rund and freshman Maddie Lacroix each scored in double digits, with 18, 10 and 12 points, respectively. Lacroix also contributed with five assists and sophomore Kaylee Hirsch led the rebounding effort with eight.
The team functioned flawlessly in all facets of the game. Passes swung around the three-point line at high speeds to keep the Riverside’s defense off-balance, opening up shots from long range or passing lanes to the lone big near the hoop.
Defensively, Mason tormented the Rams. The Mustangs rebounded strongly and repeatedly capitalized on floating passes and loose handling by Riverside to force turnovers and get points in transition; another element of the team’s new identity.
The lack of height on the 15-woman roster requires Mason to buckle-down on the defensive end.
“[Coach] definitely stresses defense over everything,” sophomore guard Nicole Bloomgarden said. “We don’t have a really tall team so…we don’t get a lot of rebounds. When we get back on defense that’s our time to redeem ourselves and get the ball back and run something on offense.”
Everything went as-planned for the new-look Mustangs but a few negatives went unnoticed since Riverside wasn’t up to par.
For one, the team relied heavily on long two’s and three-pointers. Gilroy conceded the team lives and dies by the jumper, but also uses plays with dribble-drives to give shooters and forwards and centers looks when needed.
The other bugaboo came from their centers, who seemed out of sorts whenever they had a ball. They didn’t possess a commanding presence inside, even against a smaller Riverside squad.
A guard-heavy roster doesn’t leave much time for the forwards and centers to get drills designed around their skill set and Gilroy admitted that was his fault. He expects them to get into a groove in the coming weeks as they practice more.
The victory at home to open the season was followed by a 63-38 road loss to Bishop Ireton on Friday, Dec. 4.
The Mustangs trailed 22-20 by the end of the first half keeping them in good shape. Ireton took control in the second half though, posting 27 points in the third and 14 in the fourth to seal the victory.
Mason was able to hang in the contest due to solid defense, but unable to contain Ireton from beyond the arc, who made 11 three’s on the night. Stat leaders included Bloomgarden with 15 points, Hirsch with eight rebounds and Fields with two assists.
The Mustangs played Warren County at home on Wednesday, Dec. 9, but results of the game were not available at press time.