George Mason High School’s girls basketball team made it through its first of two elimination games to start the Region B tournament thanks to a last-second, 42-40, win over Stuarts Draft High School.
It’s a mirror image of what the Mustangs (13-12) experienced nearly a year ago to the day to open the tournament. Back then, Mason was down 38-35 to Stuarts Draft with little over a minute remaining when then-junior guard Maddie Lacroix hit a prayerful three to tie the game before senior forward Kaylee Hirsch putback a missed shot the very next possession to win it at the buzzer. Fast forward to 2019 and this time, Lacroix shot the game-winner herself after collecting her own rebound and draining a midrange shot from the baseline as the clock expired.
“Regionals is just so different because the high-intensity play calls for closer games. I’m just glad I made the shot when we needed it,” Lacroix said.
Lacroix’s heroics helped resolve a tense final 10 minutes of action for the Mustangs. After freshman Zoraida Icabalceta nailed a smooth pull up jumper to give Mason a 34-26 lead toward the end of the third quarter, Stuarts Draft found its rhythm offensively. The Cougars went on a 5-0 run to end the quarter and outscored the Mustangs 9-4 three minutes into the fourth quarter to take a 40-38 lead.
That’s when Stuarts Draft began bogging the game down with long possessions, intending to tire Mason out and snag an easy bucket or two in the process.
“I just told the girls to keep playing regular defense,” head coach Chris Carrico said. “I wasn’t concerned with their change of pace because I felt like we were able to stay in good position.”
The Mustangs didn’t flinch and continued to play stout defense for over minute before a Stuarts Draft turnover led to Icabalceta assisting freshman forward Megan Tremblay after some pick and roll action to knot the game up at 40 apiece.
The Cougars had another minute-long possession where they scanned the court for an opening. The visitors found one when a player had an open lane to the rim for a gimme layup, but flubbed the delivery. Mason, a little too eager to make good on the gift, flubbed its next possession as well when Icabalceta’s no look pass to an open Tremblay underneath the basket went awry.
With 40 seconds remaining and Stuarts Draft fishing for a shot, Icabalceta redeemed herself by snatching the ball from a Cougar player along the baseline with 21 seconds to play. With the ensuing possession Lacroix completed the comeback and kept the Mustangs’ state tournament berth dreams alive.
“At the beginning of the season I don’t think anyone, especially the Bull Run District, thought we were going to be any good,” Lacroix added, who will be playing for a chance to go to her third straight Class 2 state tournament tomorrow against Page County High School. “But we just pulled together in the end and bonded and the cohesiveness worked in our favor.”
Mason will travel to Page County for the region semifinal tomorrow at 7 p.m.