A packed week saw George Mason High School’s boys basketball team lose once and win twice by prevailing over Clarke County High School, 84-32, and Rappahannock County High School, 72-27, before falling to Madison County High School 50-46 Tuesday night.
For Mason (14-10) the path to making the 2A regional tournament was secured, but an early exit from the Conference 35 tournament does make every game from here on out a road contest. Still, the Mustangs have hit their stride at the right time and have reasons to feel good going forward. Their defense, once porous, is now clicking. Their offense has rounded into shape across the starters and bench players and has eight capable scorers.
“A few games back we addressed some problems on both sides of the ball,” junior guard Max Ashton said. “Now we just have to execute on offense, keep assignments on defense and the wins will come.”
Mason started the past week strong with a blowout win over Clarke on senior night. While the elder statesmen played most of the first quarter for the Mustangs, they had little positive impact, falling behind 11-4 seven minutes into the game. Mason head coach Chris Capannola’s subbed the regular starters in and the tide turned quickly.
Ashton hit a three to end the quarter down 16-14. Once the second quarter began, Ashton scored two quick buckets and was followed by junior guard Jay Nesson’s feed to sophomore forward Johnny Goodwin’s cut to go up 21-16.
Mason ended the quarter on a 15-0 run to go up 38-20 by halftime and carried that into a dominant second act for the Mustangs. Mason scored 23 points in both the third and fourth quarter while Clarke County combined only for 12, ensuring the route would be complete.
The Mustangs also made quick work of Rappahannock on Feb. 9. A 24-point first quarter was followed by a seven-point second and allowed the Panthers to faintly sniff a comeback down 31-15 at the half. But Mason squashed that hope with a 20 and 21 point performance in the third and fourth quarter, respectively, to carry the handy win.
Tuesday night’s loss to Madison County is another example of one bad quarter dispelling any chance at a win. Mason opened up by matching the Mountaineers at 9-9 by the end of the first quarter and carried that momentum into a strong second quarter where they nudged just ahead by going up 25-23 by halftime.
Unfortunately, in the third quarter the floor fell out from under the Mustangs. Madison racked up 13 points to Mason’s four and built a seven-point cushion that was too much to overcome. Down 36-29 to start the fourth, the Mustangs were able to make it interesting by outscoring the Mountaineers 17-14, but couldn’t trim the margin enough.
Again, this team has the pieces in place to make some noise in the region tournament, where they qualified as a three-seed. And Capannola has joked that the Mustangs’ streakiness gives him fits but the players themselves have an easy time forgetting the loss and re-focusing for the next match-up.
The Mustangs hit to the road to face off against a to-be-determined opponent next Tuesday, Feb. 20.