By Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s boys varsity basketball team lost its first home game in over two years in a 59-52 loss to Strasburg High School last Thursday. The Rams benefited from “tentative” guard play from the Mustang back court, according to Coach Chris Capannola, as well as foul trouble from the Mustangs and an early benching of senior forward Will Nunley.
Nunley was benched for the rest of the game at the 5:08 mark in the first quarter after receiving a technical foul for his part in a shoving match during a dead ball situation. Capannola said his personal coaching rule is to sit players who are called for a technical foul for the rest of the game.
“I would have loved to say hey man, it wasn’t your fault, shake it off, but I’m not going to judge what it was or wasn’t,” Capannola said. “I didn’t see what happened, so it was tough. I wanted to say look, this win’s more important, this team’s more important, but you know that’s my rule, that’s my principles. I’m not going to change it for anything.”
Nunley, the Mustangs’ leading scorer, did not receive the only technical foul of the quarter. A player for the Rams attempted to dunk the ball during pre-game warm-ups, a violation of Virginia High School League rules, and earned his team a technical foul. Senior guard Nick Bourbeau opened the game with two points from behind the foul line and the Mustangs gained first possession of the ball.
Despite committing seven fouls in the opening period, the Mustangs led by a point going into the second quarter and extended their lead to 28-20 by the end of the first half. This was due in large part to George Mason utilizing 3-point shooting for 18 of their 28 first half points in the absence of a low-post presence.
Bourbeau said that playing without Nunley reveals the Mustangs’ weakness. Jonathan Kloosterman, the Rams 6’3, 250-pound junior forward, was even more of a challenge to defend and score around without Nunley in the game.
“We knew that our posts weren’t going to be able to do the same thing that we’re able to do against other teams in the district so we took advantage of the three,” Bourbeau said.
Bourbeau and Capannola both said they were pleased with the Mustangs’ effort in the game and noted that players stepped up in Nunley’s absence. The Mustang back court had trouble with an extended half court zone defense from the Rams that met the Mustangs’ point guard at half court while another Rams defender cut off the point guards’ first option of passing the ball to the wing.
“Pressure got to us,” Capannola said. “We don’t have the ball handlers that can get through that at the moment and that was the ball game.”
The Mustangs play Falls Church High School in the first round of the weekend-long Joe Cascio Holiday Classic tournament tomorrow at Falls Church High.
Capannola said he thinks the tournament will give the Mustangs a confidence boost going back into league play at the top of the year.