Runners-Up in Conference Tourney, Mustang Boys Move on to Regionals

Mason's Thomas Creed (44) and Hollman Smith (24) lock in on defense against Central (Photo: Carol Sly)
Mason’s Thomas Creed (44) and Hollman Smith (24) lock in on defense against Central (Photo: Carol Sly)

George Mason High School’s varsity boys basketball team performed up to par in the Conference 35 tournament this past week, notching a 53-45 overtime win over Central High School on Saturday night before falling to Madison County High School, 43-39, on Tuesday.

The Mustangs’ (16-8) 1-1 record in the tournament earned the team a No. 2 seed and a home game in the opening round of the 2A East region tournament that tips this weekend.

A bit of unaccounted fight from Central and fright from Mason made Saturday’s home Conference 35 game a tense bout. The Mustangs came out uncharacteristically cold on offense and tentative on defense, allowing an inspired Central squad to control the game. An early 10-6 Mason lead midway through the first quarter turned into a 25-14 Falcon advantage by the half.

“It was all in our heads,” sophomore forward Hollman Smith said. “Our team scored four points in the second quarter — not like us at all. They got in our heads on defense, too, so all around we started slow.”

Mason erased the deficit with a 16-point third quarter, entering the the fourth with a 30-29 lead. Smith’s trip to the line and a bucket on the next possession pushed Mason ahead 34-31, but Central answered with a three to stay even.

The Falcons added five more points to go up 39-36 with under a minute remaining, until Smith answered with a straightaway three to send the game into overtime.

In the extra period, sophomore guard Max Ashton started hitting from downtown alongside his classmate. He tallied eight of his 10 points in overtime with 3-pointers from both corners, and a triple from Smith sandwiched in between carried the Mustangs to victory.

“Those sophomores just [have] ice water in their veins,” head coach Chris Capannola said. “No fear.”

With the Conference 35 title on the line, Mason came up just short against Madison County.

An 11-6 lead in the first quarter devolved into a 22-15 Mountaineer advantage by halftime, as the Mustangs endured an extended second quarter scoring drought.

Mason came on strong in the third quarter thanks to contributions from senior forward Dustin Green and junior guard Biruk Teshome but remained 10 points down entering the final frame.

A furious rally in the fourth brought the Mustangs within two. A Madison County offensive rebound with under 20 seconds to play, however, sealed the game.

The Mustangs host Stuarts Draft High School in the opening round of the 2A East region tournament at 6 p.m. on Friday.