by Matt Delaney
On a night that saw the Bull Run District’s top two teams clash, George Mason High School’s girls varsity basketball team emerged victorious over William Monroe High School 53-47 on Wednesday, Jan. 6.
Mason and Monroe held 3-0 records in the conference entering the game. With first place in the district at stake, both sides made it clear how important a win would be with their intense play throughout.
However, the Mustangs proved to be just a bit hungrier and were able to take control of the game thanks to their growing camaraderie.
“They’re definitely becoming more of a team,” head coach Michael Gilroy said.
“I told them before the game that from the start of try-outs until now….It’s become more cohesive. People who didn’t talk to each other have become friends and you can see people clicking who didn’t know each other before the season started, so just those little things outside of basketball you can really see the team coming together.”
The sense of unity was evident as everyone was getting into the mix to make contributions.
Nine players recorded a field goal while the defense as a whole employed a little trickery to keep Monroe’s versatile freshman forward Samantha Brunelle uncomfortable. It was a tall order for the Mustangs, but they pulled through when it mattered most.
“We were trying to make it look like three girls were guarding her at all times,” Gilroy said.
“We didn’t do a good job. She got to the line endlessly, she got open looks. She’s a tough kid. We knew she was gonna get a lot of buckets off offense rebounds and put-backs. And that’s what she did, but I thought we did a pretty good job, especially at the end of the game.”
Brunelle, standing around 6’3, got her share of points but was held in check by sophomore guard Isabella Ashton, thanks to her reach and aggressive approach on defense.
“Bella’s very active,” Gilroy said. “We don’t have anyone that can guard [Brunelle] straight-up, man-to-man effectively, but I thought she was going to be our best bet because of her length and athleticism.”
The game itself was a back and forth affair. Both teams were knotted up at 10 points going into the second quarter and Mason nudged ahead slightly by halftime at 23-22.
As has been the case nearly all season, Mason’s showing in the third quarter would come to define the tone and outcome of the game’s second act. This time the Mustangs’ better half made itself known.
Monroe scored five points almost as fast as the quarter started – and that was it. Mason shortened the Dragons’ lead with free throws and then captured it for the remainder of the game after a steal, lay-up and successful and-one free throw from sophomore guard Nicole Bloomgarden put them ahead 29-27 midway through the third quarter.
Hindering Brunelle was the team’s top priority, but Mason needed to shine on offense as well. They accomplished that with a slower tempo that found some weak spots in the Dragons’ 3-2 zone.
“It depends on the team,” Hirsch said. “But this team it did because we broke the press that way and [took] the time to make better decisions.”
Bloomgarden had 19 points, Hirsch grabbed 14 rebounds and junior guard Sarah Lubnow had six assists.
Wins came in pairs as Mason followed up their defeat of Monroe with a 64-39 road win over Rappahannock County High School on Friday, Jan. 8.
Hirsch had a big night scoring with 15 points while Bloomgarden followed close behind with 11 and sophomore guard Linnea Skotte had nine of her own.
Madison County High School rolls through George Mason tonight, January 13, for a face-off.