George Mason High School’s girls basketball team experienced a tough end to 2017 by losing two straight in the Rebel Roundball Classic held at Fairfax High School, including a 47-29 defeat to Flint Hill High School in the third-place match.
For the tournament, the Mustangs (7-4) were able to secure a 51-36 first round victory against host Fairfax before falling to nearby Marshall High School 60-41 in the semifinal.
Mason had braved a long first month against out-of-conference opponents and did well as their record sits above .500. Still, a two-game slide to end the calendar year (let alone, their first consecutive losses so far this season) and heading into Bull Run district play this month was not ideal despite the overall positive results from the season’s early goings.
“I wanted to challenge us early, play different types of teams and I am happy to be where we are at [record-wise]. There were a couple of losses I know we could and should have won, but we learned some good lessons from all of them,” Mason head coach Michael Gilroy told the News-Press in an e-mail interview.
“We know that the real season starts Friday when league play starts, we go back to 0-0. Not one of the 11 games that we have played means anything for our playoff hopes, so we need to come out guns blazing for rest of the season.”
A strong start to district competition will be the perfect remedy after the Mustangs’ upsetting loss to Flint Hill.
In a game that Mason never led, the team often looked out of sorts when facing the scrappy and short-benched Huskies.
Flint Hill jumped out to a 7-0 lead before senior guards Nicole Bloomgarden and Elizabeth Dodge, along with, junior guard Maddie Lacroix, got aggressive and sank some shots to keep Mason close at 11-9.
Flint Hill pushed their lead to six at 15-9 early in the second quarter, but the Mustangs rallied thanks to two big three-pointers from Lacroix and senior forward Jenna Short to go into the half down 21-20 and jolt some life back into an offense that struggled to look comfortable throughout.
On the other side of the intermission, the Huskies began to have more success and sank two late jumpers to take their largest lead of the game at 33-25 into the fourth quarter.
Mason needed some offense — and fast — to regain their footing. However, fate had different plans as four consecutive drives to the hoop resulted in unfortunate rolls and rim rejections that took the wind out of the Mustangs.
Bloomgarden would score Mason’s only points in the quarter at the free throw line while Flint Hill tallied 14 more to safely pad their lead and secure third place.
It was tough sledding for the Mustangs, who were without their pivotal presence inside the paint in senior forward Kaylee Hirsch due to a lingering ankle injury she suffered earlier in the season.
“The offense is designed around [Hirsch], so not having her makes a huge impact,” Gilroy continued. “[Douglas] is our next best post option, but is still getting acclimated to the offense and is still only a sophomore. I have no doubts she will be able to step into [Hirsch’s] place and produce when called upon, but it’s just gonna take some time.”
The 10-1 Statesmens lived up to their record in the semifinal. A 35-21 lead at halftime put Mason behind the eight ball, and a 49-28 deficit entering the fourth quarter proved too tall of a task for the Mustangs overcome. But in their opening round victory over Fairfax, Mason enforced their dominance. A 20-10 halftime lead was trimmed to 33-27 going into the fourth quarter, but 18-9 output that favored the Mustangs denied the Rebels any chance at an upset.
Mason faced Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology last night but results were not available at press time.
The Mustangs’ next contest is a road game this Friday against Rappahannock County High School to start Bull Run competition that runs through the end of their regular season.
For Gilroy and the Mustangs, the emphasis is on refining their defense and eveing out their offense to keep 2A States within view.