by Matt Delaney
George Mason’s varsity girls basketball team ended their season with a 55-50 loss to Page County High School in the opening round of the Region 2A East Tournament.
The game’s turbulent final minutes made for a dramatic finish. Mason led since the first quarter, and at one time by 14 points, until late in the fourth quarter when a jumper from Page County put the visitors ahead 48-47.
Sophomore center Kaylee Hirsch knocked down her free throws to reclaim the lead, but Page County responded with a three-point play that kept Mason under pressure. The Mustangs followed with a scoreless possession that opened the door for Page County, who went up 53-49 after another bucket to guarantee their victory.
“I told them the second half was gonna be tough, that they’re gonna start full-court pressing,” head coach Michael Gilroy said. “We handled it well, we just didn’t convert it on the other end.”
The Mustangs were effective in both phases, shutting down Page County’s offense while adding points at a controlled pace. Mason led 16-11 entering the second quarter and 30-20 by the half.
Momentum shifted in the second half when Page County kicked it into overdrive while Mason’s offense went cold. Page County’s 20 points in the third had them trailing 42-40 entering the fourth but on the roll that carried their win.
The season may be over, but Mason made strides in their first season under Gilroy. A team-first identity founded on defense kept everyone in the line-up accountable and sets the Mustangs up nicely for next season.
“It was a year one’s learning experience for them, they know what the style is once the season starts and [can] just jump right in.” Gilroy said.
Mason’s loss to Page County was preceded by a 46-42 victory over Central High School for the Conference 35 championship on Feb. 17.
“We were conference champs, which was the goal,” Gilroy said. “Thought we could’ve won this game – should’ve won this game – and I thought we could make a little noise in this region, but overall it was a successful year.”