Replicating their strong start to 2017, George Mason High School’s girls basketball team is now 4-0 in 2018 after adding a 40-36 win over Central High School and a 57-30 win over Strasburg High School to the list this past week.
It may be a similar surge to the new year, but this is a different Mason (11-4) team. Last year the Mustangs had a chip on their shoulder from a home loss to start the 2016 2A Region tournament and used their underdog status to surprise opponents as they worked their way to the state quarterfinals. This year Mason comes in as a proven contender and other teams are perking up at the chance to find the chink in their armor.
However, no team that qualifies for the state tournament does so by winning every game the same way. That’s why hiccups in offensive rhythm have been balanced out by a tenacious effort on defense in recent victories.
“I have told our team that if we hold [opponents] under 40 points we will have a chance to win the game,” Mason head coach Michael Gilroy said. “I am not worried one bit about how many points we put up each game, as long as we have one more point than the other team when the game ends, then we are good. Defense wins games and that [Central win] was the epitome of that.”
Mason’s ability to put Central’s offense in a stranglehold last Friday was the secret sauce in a game that saw the Mustangs own offense hit a wall. A strong start to match up had Mason up 13-7 after the first quarter and 27-16 by halftime.
But coming out of the break the offense began to stagnate. The Mustangs only scored 13 total points in the second half and had two scoreless stretches, spanning four minutes each. Central, on the other hand, began to heat up by scoring 20 points in the second half with 12 coming in the fourth quarter. Mason was still able to prevent the Falcons from getting over the hump thanks to their stalwart defense, but the game was a good reminder to mix up the offensive approach when their initial plan isn’t bearing fruit.
“We were trying too hard to feed the post, even when it was evident that they were packing it in and crowding the paint,” Gilroy continued. “When we are winning and another team wants to sit back in a zone, we have to realize that it’s not a bad thing to pass the ball around and run some clock and wait until a great shot presents itself. We took a lot of contested shots which was uncharacteristic of us.”
Senior guard Nicole Bloomgarden led Mason with 14 points, with senior forward Kaylee Hirsch right behind her at 13, though nine of her points came from the free throw line.
The win against Strasburg last Wednesday was more cut and dry. The Mustangs held a solid 10-5 lead after the first quarter, but really blew the game open in the second where they outscored the Rams 23-12 and took a 33-17 lead into halftime. A slow third quarter where both teams scored in the single digits only delayed the inevitable as Mason regained their momentum in the fourth with another 17 points to cap off the win.
The Mustangs travel to Madison County High School tonight, but results weren’t available by press time. Next, they’ll host Clarke County High School this Friday.