by Matt Delaney
In the midst of the school year’s holiday break, George Mason High School’s varsity boys basketball team entered the Joe Casico Holiday Classic at Falls Church High School where they beat Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in the first round 46-30 on Monday, Dec. 28.
The Mustangs led throughout the entire game, but against a Jefferson team that aims to keep things slow and steady on offense and defense, Mason found themselves at odds with the pace early on.
“They’re very methodical…meticulous [and] very disciplined…there was absolutely rhythm to the way we wanted to play,” head coach Chris Capannola said.
Jefferson had the game crawling along at a snail’s pace, stymieing Mason’s up-tempo offense and not allowing them to gain a big lead.
Mason shot out to a 9-2 lead in the first quarter, but Jefferson dragged their feet on offense and cut the lead down to 10-6.
The Mustangs bombarded the Colonials again in second quarter with two three-pointers from senior guard Thomas Beddow and a lay-up from sophomore forward Tim Adrianarison in a matter of minutes, but a three-pointer and buzzer-beating lay-up of their own kept Jefferson close at 20-13 by halftime.
The Colonials’ plodding approach to the game took away from Mason’s fluidity, but the Mustangs refused to let that define the second half.
Three quick buckets between seniors guard Elliot Mercado and forward Robert Tartt to start the third quarter extended the lead to 26-14 and forced Jefferson to ditch their slow pace in order to play catch up. This only helped Mason, who continued to push the pace.
“We got a couple steals and we got some run outs…once we started scoring a little bit they had to push some and up their game a little bit because we pushed it out and [transition is] what helped us there,” Capannola said.
Up 34-16 in the fourth quarter, Mercado and fellow senior guard D’Montae Noble darted by the Colonials and combined for six more points in transition for Mason, putting the score at 40-21 and well out of reach for Jefferson.
Tartt led with 11 points, Bossart had five rebounds and Noble had four assists.
This “methodical” kind of game is something the Mustangs should be used to since it’s how Strasburg High School played when they were defeated by Mason 53-41 on Tuesday, Dec. 22.
Mason busted out to a 20-6 lead, but Strasburg, like Jefferson, hung around and carefully shortened the lead to four points by halftime, 25-21. The Mustangs controlled the third quarter and led 45-28 by the fourth, but Strasburg continued to sink some shots, especially three-pointers, to keep Mason on their toes until time ran out.
Mercado’s 17 points led all scoring, Bossart collected 12 rebounds and junior forward Dustin Green and Mercado both had four assists.
Mason appeared off all night, mainly due to the onset of the holiday break.
“It’s every year when you play a game on a day when you don’t have school the routines disrupted,” Capannola said. “If you’re lying in bed all day and all of sudden you’re coming to play a game…it’s hard to get yourself going”
Another issue against Strasburg was Mason’s perimeter defense. Both Strasburg and Central High School were able stay alive against Mason because of their ability to hit three-pointers.
“I think some of these teams can definitely shoot the ball a lot,” Beddow said. “We just gotta close out harder and make them put it on the deck because we have some bigs that can block it when they get in the lane.”
Mason continued tournament play against St. John Paul the Great Catholic School on Tuesday, Dec. 29, but results of the game were not available at press time.