by Matt Delaney
A pivotal 50-42 victory over local 5A competitor Mount Vernon High School on Dec. 8 put George Mason’s varsity girls basketball team over .500 with a 3-2 record.
Despite a 40-32 victory over Strasburg High School, Mason head coach Michael Gilroy was unhappy with his team’s effort and expected more from them no matter the perceived threat level of their opponent. Two days removed from the lukewarm win over Strasburg, the Mustangs pulled a 180 and rallied from behind to defeat a team that tried to make Mason underdogs in their own gym.
“Huge win,” Gilroy said. “We scheduled a bunch of non-conference games and [so far] we’ve lost them all. I told the team ‘I wanna get one of these.’ We had our best practice of the year yesterday and it showed.”
Mason found themselves in a 12-4 deficit midway through the first quarter, but discipline on both ends of the court helped dig them out. By halftime Mount Vernon’s lead was trimmed to 29-27 due to limited looks for the Majors’ offense and a seven-point scoring flurry from junior guard Nicole Bloomgarden and forward Kaylee Hirsch, along with senior guard Sarah Lubnow in the half’s final two minutes.
Two Hirsch free throws and two buckets from Bloomgarden gave Mason their first lead of the night at 34-31 early into the third quarter. Mount Vernon would take a narrow 35-34 lead again though the Mustangs tied it up when Bloomgarden split her next trip to the line. Entering the fourth all-even, Mason closed strong after gaining a definitive 43-37 edge when Bloomgarden completed a three-point play and followed with a corner three the very next possession.
Bloomgarden was responsible for more than half of the Mustangs’ offense with 29 points. Hirsch and Lubnow finished with seven and five points, respectively.
“My teammates really helped me,” Bloomgarden said of her performance. “We were all on our game tonight.” Modesty aside, Bloomgarden’s coach had his own thoughts on her statement game against Mt. Vernon.
“Nicole did a great job of being aggressive,” Gilroy added. “I’ve been asking it of her for two years, and really she really stepped out of her shell.”
Is this a seminal win for the Mustangs? Maybe, but it’s undoubtedly a step in the right direction for a squad set on a 2A state tournament berth.
Mason beat Central High School 30-29 on Friday, Dec. 16 and travels to Warren County High School on Monday, Dec. 19.