By Drew Costley
The George Mason High School girls varsity basketball team opened its regular season last week with wins against two district opponents. Last Wednesday, the Mustangs beat the Madison County High School Mountaineers 43-38 and went on to narrowly escape defeat in their home opener last Friday against the Clarke County High School Eagles with a 49-46 victory.
The Mountaineers are a “very improved team” from last season, according to Mustang Coach LaBryan Thomas. “They have a young and strong team and they are going to turn heads in the district,” Thomas said.
The Mustangs were caught off guard by the Mountaineers’ physical play and improvements in their game. “They saw it was a dog fight, realized it and took control late in the game,” Thomas said.
Last season, the Mustangs outscored the Mountaineers by 41 points in their two victories over Madison County, including a 28-point romp on the Mountaineers’ home court. Thomas said that his players thought they could “come in and roll over” Madison County because they were the state champions, but that they got a wake-up call in their first regular-season game.
So Thomas and the Mustangs were ready for their home opener against Clarke County. “We knew Clarke County was going to be good,” Thomas said. “They are bigger than us. We had to make some adjustments and it took some time to find our groove.”
The Mustangs hosted the Central High School Falcons tonight, but results were not available at press time. This Friday, the Mustangs travel to Strasburg High School for a district game against the Rams.
On Saturday, the Mustangs have a tough match-up at home against East Rockingham High School, last year’s Virginia High School League Division 1 state champions. That game may be critical for the long-term development of a young Mustangs squad.
Earlier this season, the Mustangs lost 51-46 to Millbrook High School, who has won the Division 4 state championship three years in a row. Last Saturday, George Mason lost 57-46 to Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, one of the best teams – from a public or private school – in the Metropolitan region.
Thomas said he believes if the Mustangs regularly play teams of a “higher caliber,” it will benefit the team, particularly young players who haven’t gotten a lot of experience playing at a varsity level.
East Rockingham will be the third team that George Mason has on its schedule that plays at a higher level of competition than the Mustangs are accustomed to facing. The team is returning every player from its championship squad and Thomas said it is going to take a real team effort for the Mustangs to come out with a victory.
“It’s going to be a very challenging game,” he said. “We have to have our best game of the year if we want to win.”