George Mason High School’s boys basketball team continues to roll with the punches, including the ones they throw at themselves, as a 68-64 win over Madison County High School was preceded by a 66-62 loss to Central High School on Jan. 12.
The Mustangs (7-7) appear to be hellbent on making every game exciting. Three of their past four games have been decided by five points or less, with Mason sporting a 2-1 record in those contests. However, in both wins the Mustangs held 20-point advantages at halftime that nearly went for naught after they played it too cool down the stretch. Mason squeaked out their win over Madison County due to some timely offense to end the game, just like they did against Fairfax Home School a few weeks ago, but the thrilling conclusions don’t inspire a lot of confidence.
“Goal was to be up by 30 halfway through the third quarter and use most of the bench, but I should know better than that,” Mason head coach Chris Capannola said, who mentioned that his bench usage messed with the team’s momentum. “We tried to get back in it and it never happened; we allowed them back in the game. We switched defenses and we couldn’t slow them down. If that game was a minute longer, it would’ve been a different outcome.”
The basket was king-sized for Mason in the first half. Anytime three-ball shooters such as junior guard Max Ashton or senior guard Anish Chatterjee fired their shot, it was nothing but net. The two hit from beyond the arc to put Mason up 19-15 to end the first quarter and carried it into the second, where Ashton and Chatterjee hit four of the team’s five threes in the quarter to send the Mustangs into halftime at 42-22.
Mason’s bench played admirably in the third quarter. Junior guard Ethan Rosenburg banked in a trey to put the Mustangs ahead 51-31 with just over two minutes remaining. However, the Mountaineers responded with seven quick points to end the period and slowly shift the tide of the game.
Once the starters returned to the court for the final period it was clear they had gone cold. Offensive possessions looked aimless in comparison to a Madison County team that wasted little time finding their shot and chasing down rebounds. Mason was outscored 26-17 in the fourth, with 15 of the Mountaineers points coming in the last 90 seconds. When Madison County hit a three pointer to cut the lead to two at 66-64 with 10 seconds remaining, a quick outlet pass to senior forward Thomas Creed followed by his jam prevented a disastrous loss for the Mustangs.
“We fell in love with the three early, against what I asked them to do, and [Madison County] came back and made it a game,” Capannola added. “Hopefully it’s lesson learned. This is the third time we were up big and had to hang on, but it’s better than the alternative.”
One bad quarter did the Mustangs in against Central last Friday. After trailing 13-3 at the end of the first quarter Mason never took the lead against the Bull Run district-leading Falcons, despite outscoring them in the second and third quarters. The tight game does make their rematch on Jan. 31 in Falls Church interesting though.
But that will have to wait as the Mustangs hit the road to take on Clarke County High School this Friday.