by Matt Delaney
In the opening round of the Conference 35 tournament, the George Mason’s varsity girls basketball team defeated Clarke County High School 42-23 on Saturday, Feb. 13 for a spot in the tournament’s final against Central High School.
The Mustangs played Central High School for the Conference championship on Wednesday, Feb. 17, but results of the game were not available at press time.
The win redeemed an upsetting 36-33 loss to Clarke County on Feb. 4 here in Falls Church. Two weeks ago Clarke County bogged down Mason’s offense in the second half, paving the way for their comeback – Saturday was anything but that.
Mason eased into the game, absorbing a Clarke County surge that put them up 7-2 early, but never flinched. After their time out the Mustangs responded with a 10-0 run, taking a 12-7 lead they never lost.
“We did start off a little slow, we got in a hole, but I knew we just needed to wake up,” head coach Michael Gilroy said. “Once we [did], we were gonna get going because they were ready to play, they were hyped.”
The offense began to click in the second quarter, outscoring the Eagles 13-6 and putting Mason up 25-16 by halftime.
Steady scoring kept the Mustangs in a favorable position throughout the second half, tacking on eight points in the third quarter and nine in the fourth while the defense repelled Clarke County’s attack.
In their Thursday, Feb. 4 game, Clarke County not only disarmed Mason’s offense but outrebounded them on both ends of the court. The Eagles’ success on the glass elevated their shoddy offense to respectability by way of abundant opportunities and was a big factor in Clarke County’s win.
To ensure Mason wouldn’t lose that battle again, Gilroy reinforced his team’s inside game during practice.
“We got out-toughed, so we did a lot of toughness drills and went back to basics for three good days.” Gilroy said.
“We literally went old school and did fourth grade box out drills for three days straight for 20 minutes [each] practice. They got hardly any offensive rebounds, which they burned us on last time.”
With Central awaiting them in the tournament final and their first Regional tournament game taking this weekend, Mason is aware the hard part is just beginning. Still, the team is comfortable with who they are and know it will take a unified effort to achieve their goal of a 2A State title berth.
“Gotta keep playing defense, keeping rebounding and keep coming together as a team. We really looked unselfish tonight…everyone shot good shots and looked for their teammates,” Gilroy said.