By Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s boys varsity basketball team won its season opener Tuesday in a 83-77 double overtime victory against district rival Madison County High School. Clutch shooting from mid and long range and an excellent all-around game from senior forward Will Nunley helped George Mason extend its home win-streak to 23 games. Nunley led all scorers with 26 points.
“We had a lot of chances to give up. We were down big in the first quarter,” said Nick Bourbeau, a senior guard for the Mustangs. “We pushed through and we knew what was at stake. Coach talked to us before the game about having an incredible home win-streak. We knew what we had to do and ended up pulling through in the very end.”
The Mustangs trailed by 11 points, 7-18, at the end of the first quarter. Madison County extended its lead to 13 points with the first score of the second quarter. Then the Mustangs went on an 8-1 run to start a series of scoring exchanges that left them behind Madison County 25-31 at the end of the half.
Bourbeau, who scored 24 points, drained one of his four 3-pointers at the beginning of the second half to tie the game at 33.
“He hit those first couple threes tonight with that crazy side spin jumper he’s got,” said Coach Chris Capannola. “But when he’s on, he can score. He took the reins and said I need to help this team win.”
Nunley, Bourbeau and senior forward Alex McMillen are the captains of a Mustangs team that lost in the Virginia High School League’s state championship before graduating nine seniors the following spring and leaving a big legacy to live up to. Senior guard Angel Castaneda, who scored 14 points in the win against Madison County, and senior forward Rand Walter, who hit a three during the Mustangs’ second quarter run, help to fill voids left by the departure of several seniors.
“The seniors have got to lead you,” Capannola said. “And once these guys get a few more minutes under their belt – we got eight bonus minutes tonight which helps – that’s when we’re going to become really good because you’ve got to follow the seniors.”
Capannola admitted that the Mustangs are rebuilding, in some aspects, “but then again it’s just basketball, you’ve got to put the ball in the basket, you’ve got to learn to guard somebody, and so in that way it’s not rebuilding, it’s a continuation of playing basketball.”
He said there is a lot for this team – with two freshman, four sophomores and a junior who has never played – to “figure out” in order to compete at the varsity level. He also thought, between playing a lackluster first half and dominating the second half, that the team grew up a little in front his eyes Tuesday night. Nunley echoed those sentiments.
“I guess [we were] just developing confidence,” he said. The Mustangs lost their first two games of the season, tournament exhibitions, by an average of 18.5 points. “So just realizing that we were able to compete in an important game,” was the difference between their performances in the first and second half, he said. “I guess we just stepped it up.”
The Mustangs’ next game is at Clarke County High School Thursday night.