Mustangs Hit Their Stride, Win 5 of Last 6 Games

FEELING OUT the defense in Mason’s win over Madison County High School on Jan. 16 is junior guard Max Ashton. The combination of Ashton, junior forward Hollman Smith and senior guard Anish Chatterjee have made the Mustangs offense a force this season. (Photo: Carol Sly)

Getting hot at the right time, George Mason High School’s boys basketball team builds steam toward the postseason with victories over 4A Park View High School, 66-57, and Bull Run district rival Clarke County High School, 52-44 on the road this past week.

The Mustangs (9-7) have now won three games in a row and five of their last six to get themselves over .500 for the first time all season. It seems as if Mason is finally getting over the hump of inconsistency by playing to the team’s primary strength — jump-shooting from the wings, often created by deliberate ball movement, and timely defense to stave off potential comebacks. Since settling on an identity the Mustangs have done a 180 from where they were a month ago and put the team in good spirits as the postseason nears.

“No coach wants their team playing their best ball in December or early January,” Mason head coach Chris Capannola said. “Now is the time, and things are trending upwards for us in that regard.”

Against Park View on Monday, the Mustangs flexed their muscles from the jump. A back-and forth first quarter had Mason just ahead at 18-15. However, in the second quarter the Mustangs blew the game open when the team connected on six three-pointers, with three coming from senior guard Biruk Teshome off the bench. The hot shooting helped amass a 22-point quarter for Mason as they took a 40-28 advantage into halftime.

As the third quarter got underway Mason showcased the not-so-glamorous part of the team’s makeup — their ability to keep opponents in the game. Park View outscored Mason 13-10 in the quarter to cut the lead to 50-41 heading into the fourth. The Patriots used that momentum to fuel a competitive final period where they tallied their most points in a single quarter at 16. Even with that surge, the Mustangs matched Park View’s offense with 16 points of their own and some tight defense at key intervals to hold off the Patriots and secure the win.

Senior guard Anish Chatterjee and junior forward Hollman Smith led the team with 17 points each while junior guard Max Ashton was close behind with 14 points.

Facing Clarke County on Jan. 19, Mason came out cold and had to adjust on the fly to some poorly preconceived notions.

“We thought we could just show up and win [against Clarke]. They only had seven healthy players and I think that got into our heads,” Capannola added.

The Mustangs were knotted up at 10 by the end of the first quarter, though they inched ahead at 25-22 by halftime after their offense found some footing. Midway through the third quarter Mason was down 34-30, but a 9-0 run that ended the quarter gave the Mustangs a much-needed boost entering the fourth, where they outscored the Eagles 13-11 and were able to clinch the victory.

Ashton and Smith led the scoring with 16 apiece and senior forward Thomas Creed followed up with 12 of his own.

Mason faced Rappahannock County High School last night but results weren’t available by press time.

They’ll face Strasburg High School at home this Saturday.