by Matt Delaney
In their home opener, George Mason’s boys’ basketball team put away a resilient Luray squad 65-44 on Friday, Dec. 4.
After dominating district and conference competition last season the boys are dealing with an identity change of their own, evolving from hopeful contenders to top dogs.
Their new status is why they received some early trouble from the Bulldogs who, after being down 10-1, mounted a comeback and trailed by one at 10-9.
“We don’t want to get used to people rolling over for us but that’s how it was last year,” senior guard Elliot Mercado said. “[This year] it’s going to be a different mentality because everyone knows how good we are.”
Right on cue, Mason tightened up for the remainder of the game and never allowed Luray within one point again.
They ended the first quarter ahead, albeit not confidently at 17-15, but began capturing the game’s momentum in the second quarter with solid play from seniors Robert Tartt, D’Montae Noble, Douglas Bossart and George Castillo, leading 32-23 at the half.
The game kept trending upward for the Mustangs as they halted Luray’s offense while scoring on some opportunities of their own, ending the third quarter 46-32.
The final quarter saw more of the same as Mason crystallized the game’s 65-44 outcome with strong play on both sides of the ball.
Tartt led the scoring with 21, with senior guard Thomas Beddow close behind with 18 points, most coming from his four three-pointers.
Bossart and Tartt led rebounds with six and five, respectively, and Mercado led the assists with four. Senior guard Josh Allen left the game in the opening minute with an ankle sprain. What doesn’t show up in the box score were all the character-defining plays the Mustangs made to keep Luray at bay for a majority of the night.
For instance, Bossart called a timeout after tussling for control of a rebound in the fourth quarter to keep possession in Mason’s favor. A heady play by a veteran player.
A more holistic example would be the bravado displayed by the Mustangs for loose balls. Scrums often took to the ground, forcing players to get extra aggressive in order to gain possession.
The players and their head coach Chris Capannola welcomed the game’s physical nature.
“When there’s a ball on the floor someone’s going to get it, someone’s not,” Capannola said. “If you’re going to battle for it; fine. If not, you’re going to lose the battle; that’s unacceptable.”
Mason was victorious but also mindful of where they were challenged.
Their half-court offense didn’t get many uncontested looks inside the three-point line. Capannola attributed it to Luray’s collapsing defense and their length down low that made easy buckets hard to come by.
Still, he felt the team could’ve done a better job getting to the foul line and converting the open jumpers they did get.
The win over Luray puts Mason at 2-0 for the year after winning their season opener on Tuesday, Dec. 1 against Riverside 74-46.
Much like their victory over Luray, the Mustangs controlled the game throughout.
By halftime the team was already en route to a blowout at 42-17. After adding another 22 points to Riverside’s seven in third quarter, Mason called off the dogs and allowed the Rams to score 22 points of their own in the fourth quarter.
Tartt was the scoring and rebound leader going 24 and six on the night. Senior guard Devin Thomas pitched in with 15 points of his own, nine of which came off of three-pointers, while Noble’s facilitated the offense with six assists.
The Mustangs played Warren County on the road on Wednesday, Dec. 9, but results of the game were not available at press time.