In its final game of the month George Mason High School’s girls basketball team finally cooled off with a narrow, 45-43, loss to Central High School. Before the defeat, Mason earned two wins over Madison County High School, 40-18, and Strasburg High School, 50-29, during last week’s three-game road trip.
The first loss of 2018 leaves Mason (14-5) with the smallest of blemishes to end January, but otherwise rounds out an amazing month for the team where they went 8-1. A rough travel schedule this past week wasn’t ideal, though it also showed that Mason can remain competitive even with consecutive road trips.
“I think the third, four-hour road trip in [a week] finally caught up to us,” Mason head coach Michael Gilroy said. “We came out flat and had to spend a lot of energy trying to claw back, which we did. We were one play away of taking command of that game for so many different possessions, but couldn’t ever seem to string two good plays in a row.”
An off night for Mason on Tuesday gave a Central team that they beat by four at home earlier in the month too much leeway. In the first matchup between these teams on Jan. 12, the Mustangs used a strong first half to withstand the Falcons second half surge where they outscored Mason, 20-13. The shoe was on the other foot this week, with Central building up an early cushion and staving off the Mustangs’ comeback to end the game. Gilroy credits the Falcons’ 3-2 zone that took the team out of sync and had them playing catch-up all game.
Things fared much better against Madison County on Jan. 27, at least in the first quarter. The Mustangs put the clamps on the Mountaineers and held them to a single point while accumulating 11. However, in the second quarter Mason kept forcing three-pointers to no avail and only added four points to Madison County’s eight, leaving the Mustangs just ahead at 15-9 at halftime.
A switch to the full court press in the second half made all the difference for Mason. The Mountaineers managed just nine second-half points as they were harassed by the Mustangs’ pressure and coughed up multiple turnovers that led to easy Mason buckets. Junior guard Maddie Lacroix finished the game with nine steals en route to a 25-point half for the Mustangs.
The win over Strasburg on Jan. 25 was mainly a product of a strong start. Mason held an opponent scoreless for an entire quarter for the second time in two games by getting a 12-0 lead over the Rams by the end of the first quarter. From there, the Mustangs kept their offense grooving and steadily lengthened their advantage. They went into halftime up 22-10 and after a dominant third quarter where they outscored Strasburg 15-5, Mason let up in the fourth with a 37-15 advantage.
“Not to make excuses, since every team has to deal with absences and sickness, but we haven’t had our full team at practice since before [winter] break,” Gilroy added. “Building continuity and set rotations for games is a must come playoff time, and that time is right around the corner.”
Mason enters the final week of the regular season when they host Madison County tonight.