by Matt Delaney
Tipping off the season on a high note, the George Mason varsity boys basketball team made quick work of Falls Church’s own Trinity School at Meadow View with a 62-27 victory at home.
There was a healthy amount of skepticism surrounding this year’s Mustang squad. After last season’s historic 29-1 team was knocked out in the 2A state semifinals, 12 of the 15 players on the roster departed, leaving head coach Chris Capannola with a major rebuilding project on his hands.
And while many challenges still await this young team, they passed their first test with flying colors.
“I was really impressed, I didn’t know what to think coming in,” Capannola said.
“Young guys didn’t look like they felt any pressure whatsoever, we moved the ball great and we kept the paint dry – we didn’t let anyone get in there.”
Trinity was able to keep the game competitive through the first quarter when they only trailed 11-5. However, a 20-point explosion by Mason’s offense in the second quarter in conjunction with a stingy defense that surrendered a mere 2 points to their private school neighbors tilted the contest in the Mustangs’ favor.
Even after Trinity’s shooting began to heat up in the second half, Mason’s control of the court cushioned them from any potential surges the visitors had left in them.
Mason’s new-look team was spearheaded by sophomore sensations guard Max Ashton and forward Hollman Smith. Ashton kept Trinity off-balance around the perimeter with his sharpshooting and mixed in some slick dribble drives to enforce his interior game, while Smith’s relentlessness on the glass complimented his solid mid-range game.
The two were by far the Mustangs’ most effective players, as Smith racked up 22 points and Ashton followed close behind with 20.
“Playing JV for two years and always being the man there, and then coming [to varsity] is like a whole new thing,” Smith said. “Better players, [but] we got a win coming into our first game, so it felt good.”
It appears, at least for the night, that Capannola and the Mustangs are on the right track. How long this young team continues to impress remains to be seen, but that skepticism can be put on hold for another day. For now, it’s about celebrating the little things.
The Mustangs won’t take the court again for a full week, when they hit the road to play Strasburg High School on Dec. 6.