An 11-day break between games left George Mason High School’s boys basketball team in rusty form as they toughed out an ugly win against Strasburg High School, 40-31, last week.
Points were hard to come by in Mason’s (6-6) first return to action since they defeated Fairfax Home School at the Joe Cascio Holiday Classic. It wasn’t by design — the Mustangs had a game to play against Rappahannock County High School on Jan. 4 that was cancelled due to wintry weather. Playing the hand they were dealt going against a less talented but chippy Strasburg squad proved to be more of a challenge than anticipated.
“I think the 11-day break between games had something to do with it, but also we seem to play to the competition, and Strasburg was not very skilled,” Mason head coach Chris Capannola said. “It seemed we were waiting for them to implode and they never really did.”
Mason was waiting for so long that they actually found themselves trailing in the game’s early goings. Strasburg willed its way to a 12-9 lead much to the Mustangs surprise, and even preserved that lead heading into halftime, though barely, at 20-19.
“We had a couple of steals and got three transition baskets and it looked like things were going our way. But we let up and allowed Strasburg to pass the ball around and get shots, and we stopped scoring.”
Junior guard Max Ashton, typically a spark plug for the offense, was held scoreless in the first half. The other two prongs in Mason’s offensive trident — junior forward Hollman Smith and senior guard Anish Chatterjee — also showed signs of stagnancy as their usual high-scoring ways were tempered throughout the game.
Coming into the second half, the Mustangs shifted their focus to the defensive end to get the job done. The strategy change worked swimmingly as Mason held the Rams to 11 second half points while putting up 21 in their own favor. A 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter ultimately clinched the game for the Mustangs as it forced Strasburg to sell out for buckets and allowed Mason to trap and pounce on passing lanes, causing further problems for the Rams.
Smith led the team’s scoring totals with 11, followed by Ashton with nine, senior forward Thomas Creed with eight and Chatterjee with seven.
Next up is a strong opponent in Central High School tonight on the road.
“We need to figure out if we want to be a good team and rise to the occasion of a basketball game and not to the level of the opponent. We are at 11-1 Central-Woodstock Thursday, I think the kids will be ready for the challenge,” Capannola said.