Fundamentals Steer Mustangs Win over Clarke

CONTRIBUTIONS FROM from key role players, such as sophomore guard Robert Asel, will be essential for Mason during the upcoming road stretch. (Photo: Carol Sly)

Experiencing a bit of a heavy-footed start much like its girls basketball cohorts, George Mason High School’s boys basketball team woke up and secured a big 67-48 win over Clarke County High School last Friday.

Typically the team that winds up winning any contest is the one with better fundamentals. Mason (9-7) checked two major boxes in that department by out-rebounding Clarke County, 40-25, and limiting their turnovers to the single-digits with just eight. According to Mason head coach Chris Capannola, it’s the third Bull Run District game in a row — and the fourth out of five — where the Mustangs kept their turnovers to a dull roar. And it’s a sign the team is getting in competitive shape at the right time — just like last year.

“Turnovers are the key at every level of basketball,” Capannola said. “If you force twice as many as you commit, you almost always win the game, and that’s what we’ve done in [District] play so far.”

Mason took their time easing into the game. While they tallied a respectable 14 points in the first quarter, so did Clarke County, making it imperative for the Falls Church visitors to create some separation in the game’s final 75 percent.

That’s just what the Mustangs did. A 20-point second quarter to the Eagles’ nine had Clarke County facing a steep, but not insurmountable deficit at 34-23. However, once Mason repeated with another 20-point showing in the third quarter — this time compared to the Eagles’ four total points — it was looking like the 54-27 lead would be enough to clinch. Mason built the lead up to 32 before allowing the bench to carry the game across the finish line.

Senior forward Hollman Smith led all scorers with 24 points, with sophomore guard Deven Martino’s 13 and senior guard Max Ashton and junior forward Johnny Goodwin’s 10 rounding out the top scorers. Ashton also nabbed nine rebounds and had eight assists, with senior guard Jay Nesson contributing with six rebounds and five assists as well.

With a spate of road games coming up, the onus is now on Mason’s defensive pressure to hold up.

“Our defense has really stepped up lately, and we have made better decisions with the ball. That needs to continue as we hit the second round of the district schedule,” Capannola added. “After [Clarke County], we have three district games in a row on the road, where things get much tougher.”

The Mustangs travel to play Central High School tomorrow night.