By Drew Costley
The George Mason High School boys basketball Mustangs edged out the Central High School Falcons, 56-54, on Tuesday night at Central in a district contest. Senior guard Nick Bourbeau scored the game-winning shot for the Mustangs, a reverse layup with 2.4 seconds left in overtime.
The Mustangs took a 3-2 lead in the first quarter and never trailed from that point on. Senior forward Will Nunley led the Mustangs with 26 points and 14 rebounds and Bourbeau added 16 points.
“Nunley again was unstoppable,” Capannola said. “He has limitless energy. It’s really amazing for a big guy to play at 100 miles per hour for four quarters.”
If Nunley and Bourbeau are emerging as go-to players for George Mason’s offense, senior forward Alex McMillen, who played a vital role in their win against the Falcons, may be the soul of the Mustangs’ defense.
“McMillen was outstanding,” Capannola said. “Alex is always in the right place and is our best defender. He made some nice plays on offense, too, with drives and dishes that set up teammates for good scoring opportunities. And he played the last five minutes and the whole overtime with four fouls. If he fouls out I’m not sure we win.”
Capannola said it was important that the Mustangs never fell behind the Falcons after taking the lead in the first quarter. “That may not seem like a big deal, but psychologically it’s huge for an inexperienced team,” he said.
Freshman guard Elliot Mercado added eight points and contributed quality minutes for the Mustangs down the stretch.
“[Mercado had] numerous gutsy plays on ends that bailed us out,” Capannola said. “The kid is fearless and really grew up a bunch [that] night.”
Last Thursday, the Mustangs lost to the Clarke County Eagles 57-50 at Clarke County High School. Capannola attributed the loss to problems the Mustangs had with handling the ball and rebounding late in the game.
“We had some key breakdowns in the fourth quarter that wound up costing us big time,” he said. “No box out, not getting after a loose ball, a couple of crucial unforced turnovers. Clarke made the plays at the end and we didn’t.”
Tomorrow night the Mustangs will host Strasburg High School in their last district match-up before the winter break.
Capannola said Nunley has been a consistent strength for the team, but that he needs help from his teammates, specifically in the back court, if they want to beat Strasburg. Nunley will have to defend Jonathan Kloosterman, the Rams’ 6’3’’, 250-pound junior forward who was an all-region football player this past season. Capannola said the team will have to help so that Nunley doesn’t get into foul trouble and that the game against the one-loss Rams will be a “big test” for the Mustangs.
“The fact that we are not strong physically due to our youth and body types makes it extra important that we play great help defense and that our guards help to rebound the ball,” Capannola said. “Nunley is getting almost every rebound right now which is great, but he needs help.”