George Mason High School varsity girls basketball team locked up the No. 3 seed for the Virginia 2A state basketball tournament, rebounding after a 43-37 loss to Nottoway High School by toppling Stuarts Draft High School 54-44 in the 2A East Region consolation game Saturday.
The Mustangs (23-5) will face the 2A West region’s second-seed, Martinsville High School, at James Madison University’s Convocation Center on Mar. 2 at 4:15 p.m.
Last Thursday’s regional semifinal loss against Nottoway came from slight drop-offs in discipline and judgment, most evident in the team’s shot selection.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying. Some instances just felt like a lid was on the basket. But even with a bounty of offensive rebounds, Mason forced shots rather than playing the patient game that rewards their pass-happy offense.
“I feel like some of the shots we took were afterthoughts,” junior forward Kaylee Hirsch said. “We need to relax, set up a little bit more and also make sure our shot selection is correct because sometimes we just jack it up when the next person is open.”
The Mustangs overcame a 7-2 deficit to take an 18-13 lead on the first possession of the second quarter, with junior guard Nicole Bloomgarden finding senior guard Sarah Lubnow in the corner for an open 3-pointer.
However, Mason wouldn’t score again until the final seconds before halftime and Nottoway tacked on 12 unanswered points to go up 25-20 at the break.
Junior forward Jenna Short’s jumper pulled the Mustangs within three at 33-30 early in the fourth quarter, but inconsistent output prevented Mason from getting over the hump.
The loss snapped Mason’s 15-game win streak.
Perhaps it was a needed heat-check entering the season’s home stretch.
“It’s never a positive to lose,” head coach Michael Gilroy said. “We gotta see how we respond. We haven’t had a loss in a while so we gotta bounce back and have a good practice for Saturday’s game.”
Mason shook off the loss with a formulaic win over Stuarts Draft in the regional consolation contest.
The Mustangs expanded a tight 28-27 halftime lead after the break as their defense held the Cougars to single-digits in both quarters, propelling the team to a 10-point victory.
All eyes now turn toward the 20-6 Martinsville Bulldogs.
Martinsville presents Mason’s greatest challenge of the season thus far. For the Mustangs to exceed their expectations of a state tournament berth, they’ll need to show they belong with Virginia’s best.