George Mason High School’s boys basketball team made quite an entrance into the postseason with a 66-46 throttling of Madison County High School in the Bull Run District tournament semifinal this week.
Tuesday night’s action featured a Mason (16-7) team that looked poised — in spurts — to cause some trouble in the playoffs. Defensively, the Mustangs choked off the Mountaineers’ strengths in their versatile point guard and rangy post player down low, keeping their effect on the game inconsequential. And on the offensive end, Mason had supplemental scoring from role players such as senior guard Scott Graffam and big impact from 25-point-scoring sophomore guard Deven Martino. Martino seemed to find the twine with a smooth shot or crafty drive to either stem the momentum from Madison County or cement it in the Mustangs’ favor all night.
“I don’t usually have game’s shooting like that,” Martino said. “But I just got some shots up before the game, and obviously during and after practice, so I was feeling good.”
The mention of spurts earlier is because Mason could’ve put this game out of commission by halftime. The Mustangs only had to wait until the opening minutes of the third quarter to do it, but this time of year where seasons end when the clock expires, it’s best not to dally.
Madison County last held the lead when it was up 8-6 midway through the first quarter. What followed was a 16-0 Mason run that went from the end of the first through the start of the second quarter, with Martino, Graffam, senior guard Max Ashton, senior forward Hollman Smith and senior guard Jay Nesson all getting in on the scoring spree.
After Ashton hit a three and Smith sank a pair of free throws to build the lead to 27-10, the Mustangs began to relax. Foul trouble for Smith and Nesson played a part in the three and a half minute lull where Madison County shrank the deficit to 33-20, but it was enough for Mason to lose its vise grip over the game.
“You let down a little bit and you see what happens, but halftime came at the right time,” Mason head coach Chris Capannola said. “And that start to the third quarter was beautiful.”
That it was. Martino forced a steal on the Mountaineers’ opening possession and assisted Smith’s breakaway layup before draining two threes and a finishing a drive of his own to start the second half on a 10-2 run. Up 43-22, Mason had successfully subdued any Madison County hopes of winning and kept the visitors at the comfortable distance throughout.
A 48-32 lead at the start of the fourth quarter was stretched back out to blowout proportions when Smith and Ashton added two points apiece to go with Martino’s eight, making the game 60-36 with under five minutes remaining.
Heading into the postseason, Capannola expected to keep the rotation tight, but nine players saw the floor on Tuesday. Their contributions could be crucial going forward.
“We need to give Max and Hollman a break. If these kids are gonna handle the ball, not make mistakes and hit the open shot, then we’ll go with it as long as we can,” Capannola added.
Mason will play a to-be-determined opponent in the District final tonight at home.