Spotty Fundamentals Pave Way for Mason Boys’ Winless Tournament

HEAD COACH CHRIS CAPANNOLA (right) and assistant coach Michael Gilroy will have to get back in the lab with the Mustangs to refine their fundamentals. (Photo: Carol Sly)

Three games in three days and three brutal losses were handed to George Mason High School’s boys basketball team as it went winless in the Joe Cascio Holiday Classic at Falls Church High School.

Mason (4-4) suffered the whole spectrum of defeat at the nearby school: a blowout, a blown lead and a comeback that fell just short. The through-line in each of the losses, similar to what it was in the loss to Manassas Park High School earlier in the season, is spotty basketball I.Q. Whether it was working to get open for passes, keying in on hot shooters or picking the right time to pull up themselves, the Mustangs just played absentmindedly for fits and spurts and paid the price for it.

“There’s lots of stuff we need to work on to bring out the fundamentals they know,” Mason head coach Chris Capannola said. “I’m not certain what happens when the uniform goes on, but we’re forgetting some basics and it’s costing us.”

Against Centreville High School to open the tournament, Mason faltered majorly in going cold against the eventual tournament champions. The Mustangs were within arms reach early on trailing just 6-4, but wouldn’t score again until 5:46 remaining in the second quarter when senior guard Max Ashton connected on a putback to break the drought. In that time, the Wildcats scored 21 unanswered points to build their advantage to 27-6. Centreville amassed a 44-19 lead midway through the third quarter and had, in spirit, won the game before the score of 67-48 was final.

Facing Dominion High School in the consolation bracket, Mason was on the verge of notching its first win of the tournament. Tied at 27 apiece coming out of the half, the Mustangs took a 50-45 lead into the fourth quarter before a Mason run ballooned the lead to 63-49 after an Ashton trey with five minutes to play. That was when the floor went out from under the Mustangs. They squandered their double-digit lead and allowed the Titans to force overtime when both were tied at 67. Dominion played more assertively than the Mason in the extra frame and won by a bucket at 72-70.

The Mustangs had a chance to salvage their tournament appearance with a win over Mountain View High School, but took one play off at the worst time. Sophomore guard Deven Martino’s three had Mason up 16-9 to start the second quarter, but Mountain View hit a three right before half to go up 26-23. The Wildcats mounted a seven-point sprint to start the third quarter and went up 33-23, prompting the Mustangs to respond.

Mason chipped away at Mountain View’s lead thanks to Ashton and senior forward Hollman Smith. Ashton’s stepback jumper to tie the game at 47 apiece with a minute to go, followed by his kickout to Smith who drained a corner three with 40 seconds to play to put the Mustangs up 50-48. On Mountain View’s following possession, however, their hot shooter blanked a three but was left with an open lane for his rebound. He converted a three-point play when he was fouled on his second attempt to snatch the game for the Wildcats 51-50.

Mason plays a road game rematch against Manassas Park tomorrow night before Bull Run District play starts next week.