by Matt Delaney
George Mason’s varsity boys basketball team’s dream season ended in a 66-63 overtime heartbreaker to Greensville County High School in the 2A State semifinal.
Entering the extra period tied at 57, Mason got a boost from Greensville County when their big man Jordan Peebles, responsible for 28 points for Greensville County, fouled out moments in. Mason responded with a 6-0 run that left the Eagles boisterous gallery silenced and momentum heavily in the Mustangs favor as they led 63-57.
Without Peebles, Greensville County was forced to lean on their shaky three-ball to level the playing field. Uncharacteristic play from the Mustangs opened the door for Greensville County who drained three consecutive shots from beyond the arc, the last one coming with 4.6 seconds left on the clock, to clinch the game and their spot in the state final tomorrow at 4 p.m.
Mason was in a funk for most of the game. An ugly opening couple of minutes had Mason trailing by one at 3-2, but evened out the kinks as the quarter progressed and began to find their groove. Not an ideal showing in either phase of the game but Mason nudge kept Greensville County at arms length at 13-11.
Things took a turn for the worse in the second. Scoring picked up, but after senior forward Robert Tartt was benched due to foul trouble Mason lost their composure on offense and defense. Mustang turnovers made way for easy Greensville County buckets, who also found their three-ball late to further themselves from Mason. The Eagles went into halftime with a 30-23 lead, one of the largest deficits Mason faced throughout the season.
The Mustangs found their stride in the third quarter, cutting into Greensville County’s lead and even taking it at one point during the period. They ended the quarter trailing by three, 45 – 42. A hectic final period in regulation saw Mason roar back and steal the lead, but foul trouble and inconsistency kept Greensville County in the mix.
Down with 27 seconds left in regulation, senior guard Elliot Mercado, the only four-year varsity player on Mason’s team, sunk two free throws to send it to overtime. All in all the Mustangs were presented with plenty of opportunities to close the game out, but failed to deliver when needed, allowing Greensville County to overtake them by the end.