by Matt Delaney
George Mason High School’s varsity girls basketball team began some winter break competition of their own with a loss in their first game of the Cougar Holiday Classic at Oakton High School to Loudoun County High School 57-31 on Monday, Dec. 28.
The Mustangs had only lost once before earlier this season to Bishop Ireton on Dec. 4, and much like that loss the team’s apparent youth seemed to forecast their defeat.
“Our youth showed,” head coach Michael Gilroy said. “We went down four points to start that second half and it was like we were down 20 with some of the faces. We gotta lot of sophomores out there and…when that score goes down and they make a turnover, their whole body language drops and, more so than basketball, I gotta get them to stay confident no matter if we’re up or down.”
Mason’s young squad was able to hang with a savvy Loudoun County team for the first half. Their offensive possessions started well with layups scored by guards like sophomore Nicole Bloomgarden and junior Sarah Lubnow.
Loudoun County employed a debilitating full court press that helped them gain a 10-8 lead over Mason, but once the second quarter began Gilroy had the team passing their way out of the press.
The Mustangs maneuvered their way out from under an 18-12 deficit and applied pressure on the Raiders by cherry-picking their basket for easy points. The failed press put Loudoun County on their heels and brought Mason within one point by halftime, 25-24.
However, things got ugly fast in the second half as the Mustangs were outscored 26-13.
Mason started of quick with four points of their own, but Loudoun County’s press took hold once more and suffocated the Mustangs chance of winning.
“That was the press that got us about two minutes in third quarter,” senior guard Rebecca Davis said.
“We gave them the ball a couple of times [on] some bad turnovers.”
The Raiders added seven points in less than 30 seconds thanks to their press and Mason lost sight of the lead for the remainder of the game.
Loudoun County continued to score at will, finishing the third quarter on a 15-0 run and up 41-28.
By the fourth quarter Mason was able to weave through the Loudoun County’s press, but was unable to do much more.
“It just got to the point where we were trying to make thread-the-needle type passes to big girls who can’t catch it,” Gilroy said.
“If we pass to [sophomore center] Kaylee [Hirsch] we gotta put it up in the air…she’s not catching anything at her feet, and we were trying to throw a hundred passes to her [feet].”
The game itself was lost, but as intended, the team got a taste of some real competition and have furthered their preparation for the postseason.
Last Wednesday, Dec. 23 Mason visited Strasburg High School where they defeated the Rams 52-39.
Mason got off to a slow start against Strasburg, which was partly due to the proximity to Christmas, and the team missed all of their three point attempts in the first half.
Gilroy admitted that it was the team’s worst half of basketball they’d ever played, but the fact that they were tied was good omen for the rest of the game.
The team came out hot in the second half and outscored the Rams 29-16 to take the win. Mason’s offense came to life with their defense, as they stopped Strasburg’s attack and quickly regrouped for transition baskets.
Bloomgarden had 13 points while Lubnow and Hirsch both had 12.
The Mustangs played C.D. Hylton High School on Tuesday, Dec. 29, but results of the game were not available at press time.