By Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s girls basketball team reached the championship round of the 20th Pohanka Chantilly Classic tournament for the first time last week.
Coach LaBryan Thomas said the Mustangs started out the tournament “a little sluggish” in their first round match-up against Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. The Mustangs finished the first quarter down 14-7. They started to come back with a 9-1 run in a low-scoring second quarter before giving up two points on a fast break to finish the first half down 17-16. Senior forward Stephanie Cheney, who led the Mustangs in scoring and rebounds with 27 points and 16 boards, attributed the slow start to a 10:45 a.m. tip-off.
“I think once we had halftime and kind of gathered ourselves as a team, [we] took stock and we were able to get a really good lead and then play our game of basketball, so that always helps,” Cheney said.
Although the Mustangs advanced to the championship round, players and Thomas agreed that it was hard to get motivated for the holiday tournament, which was held from Dec. 27 – 29.
“We just came back from winter break and our mindsets weren’t there,” said sophomore forward Katie Goodwin. Goodwin scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds against the Colonials. Thomas said he told the team at halftime that he understood, but “just for 16 minutes to leave it here, stay here, concentrate on the game and just play our game. Then go back and enjoy the holiday.”
The Mustangs began to get their offense rolling in the third quarter by outscoring Thomas Jefferson 18-13, but had trouble stopping the Colonials’ offense. Minh Bui, the Colonials’ senior forward who scored 18 points against the Mustangs, gave George Mason trouble in the low post.
“She is really strong with the ball, so we had to make a few adjustments on her,” Cheney said. “When we went into our 3-2 zone we kind of had a rotation on her to make it look like she wasn’t open all the time.”
Bui had help from senior guards Sam Hoegle and Morgan Cheatham, junior guard Mary Forburger and sophomore guard Rebecca Clark-Callender, who combined for 24 points and eight assists.
“They’ve got great guards that can feed the ball inside. and those two guards that they have made some fantastic passes,” Thomas said. “We’ve got to shore up our defense on the inside a little bit but we’ve got time to work on it.”
After beating the Colonials 53-42, George Mason moved on to face Langley High School in the second round, who they beat 40-38. The Mustangs then lost 57-30 to McLean High School in the championship round. It was the first time the Mustangs made it to the championship round of the tournament since Chantilly High School began hosting a girls basketball tournament.
The Mustangs will host Rappahannock County High School Friday in their first game of the new year.