Starting off the year on a high note is George Mason High School’s girls basketball team as they downed the private National Cathedral School, 41-34, on the road to open the 2017-18 season.
It wasn’t anywhere near as pretty as the Mustangs or head coach Michael Gilroy would have preferred, but the team will gladly take 1-0 over 0-1 any day of the week. And while there remains ample room for improvement, the team found a way to close out a game that was far from ideal, showing an ability to adapt and demonstrate resilience that will be needed as the year gets going.
“It was a low scoring affair and we struggled to take care of the ball,” Gilroy told the News-Press over e-mail. “When competing against a private school you play with a 30 second shot clock, which we never do, so I think that sped us up and we were in too much of a rush but that always comes with first game jitters.”
Mason endured the Eagles’ scrappy tendencies from the jump in order to secure their season’s first victory.
An opening quarter that was a bit too full of turnovers — partially due to Cathedral’s defense, and partially due to the Mustangs shaking off competitive rust — began to smooth out as the game entered the second quarter.
Mason established success in the paint and continued to rely on senior forward Kaylee Hirsch’s inside game to generate an offense.
The strategy worked, as Hirsch led the team with a 24 point, 15 rebound double-double effort that helped the Mustangs navigate the contest’s frequent rough patches on both sides of the ball. Fortunately for Mason, Cathedral was also struggling to cope with the start of the season and gave the Mustangs a margin of error that is sure to dwindle as the year progresses and more challenging opponents come up in the schedule.
Coming out of halftime with the Mustangs up 21-11, Mason began to pick up steam and show why they were a top-8 team in Virginia’s 2A classification last season.
Part of that came from senior guard Nicole Bloomgarden coming to life in the third quarter. Bloomgarden scored the team’s only points throughout the third, but after Hirsch re-emerged for the fourth quarter the two began to gradually build the Mustangs’ lead.
Though the second half brought Cathedral close to eclipsing Mason’s lead. The Eagles more than doubled their point total from the first half by accumulating 23 points in the final 16 minutes of competition.
However, thanks to two late three-pointers from Bloomgarden, the Mustangs were able to put the game out of reach and pave the way for the team’s inaugural victory.
“As a coach you always want to play your best, but at same token, a win’s a win, sometimes they are not going to go as planned,” Gilroy continued. “Being able to gut out an ugly game and to get that experience of a tight game right away in the season is going to be very beneficial for us.”
The Mustangs looked to keep their winning streak alive as they faced 4A Dominion High School last night, but results were not available by press time.