Key Absences Spell Trouble for Mustangs in Tourney

THE RETURN of junior forward Julia Rosenberger and a few other key pieces from both vacation and injury will help shore up Mason’s rotation for January. (Photo: Carol Sly)

George Mason High School’s girls basketball team didn’t have the merriest of winter breaks as it lost all three of its games by double-digits at Fairfax High School’s Rebel Roundball holiday basketball tournament.

It’s hard to knock the Mustangs (3-8) for dropping their three games at Fairfax High. A key starter in freshman forward Megan Tremblay and a vital rotational player in freshman guard Bella Paradiso missed the tournament entirely, prompting Mason’s head coach Chris Carrico to shuffle the lineups and add some junior varsity players to the mix as well.

The hodge-podge of players produced what you’d expect: clunky, but still spirited play. Carrico wasn’t putting too many eggs in the “winning” basket, so he was content seeing the team compete despite its limitations.

“I was proud of the girls with their effort. We had a lot of opportunities just to quit and get down,” Carrico said. “[Against Chantilly High School], we’re down 12 and we missed a wide open three, so we had a chance to cut it under 10 [points] in the fourth quarter in a game and be competitive. That’s all you can ask for in tournament games like this.”

Opening the tournament against the hosts, Fairfax, a slow first half sealed the result. The Rebels raced out to 16 points in the first quarter; meanwhile, the Mustangs only countered with five of their own. A 28-point explosion by the home team in the second quarter put Mason on ice heading into halftime down 44-15 before reserves finished off the contest that ended 59-33.

Squaring up with Chantilly for their second game, the Mustangs showed some real grit to keep their 6A opponent honest. A 16-10 Chargers lead after the first quarter grew to a 28-18 advantage by halftime for Chantilly. A nearly quarter-long scoreless drought by Mason after the break allowed the Chargers to build their lead to 42-18, until freshman forward Rianna Arsenault banked a shot in and converted a three-point play to bring the Mustangs out of their funk.

Senior guard Maddie Lacroix then went coast-to-coast for a bucket after securing a rebound and sank a long two the following possession to start the fourth quarter. Freshman guard Zoraida Icabalceta then finished off a fastbreak to cut the lead to 42-29 with roughly five minutes to play. The next possession, Mason’s ran a set to get an open look at three, which the team accomplished, but failed to convert.

The Mustangs wound up losing to Chantilly 50-30.

The final game against Langley High School started promising but got away from Mason in the second half. The Mustangs kept the Saxons in check only trailing 10-5 in the first quarter and were reasonably close at 27-17 by the half. However, Mason lost its grip following the intermission and spiraled to the final result, 52-34.

Now starts Bull Run District play, where the Mustangs will host Rappahannock County High School tomorrow night.