By Drew Costley
LaBryan Thomas studies the players on the court as he analyzes aloud the game play of each possession for assistants, former players or spectators. Officially, it’s not a game day for the head coach of the George Mason High School girls varsity basketball team, but he’s watching the boys varsity basketball team take on Madison County High School in their first home game of the regular season. And he’s as excited as the Mustangs’ cheerleaders, fans and George Mason alumni returning to see their alma mater hoop it up.
“We’ve got to support each other. The basketball program is the basketball program,” Thomas said. “And I love the sport, so any chance I can get there, I’m there.”
Thomas notched his 135th win in five years coaching the varsity team when the Mustangs beat Rappahannock County High School 71-33 last Friday at home, and it was the 100th win for the coaching staff as a whole.
Senior forward Stephanie Cheney led a scoring frenzy against the Panthers with 20 points and 11 rebounds. The Mustangs opened up with a 29-point first quarter and never looked back, scoring 15 points in the second quarter and 18 points in the third. Sophomore forward Katie Goodwin scored 13 points and six rebounds and junior guard Julianna Rollo scored nine points, all from behind the 3-point line. Every player on the team scored at least two points against Rappahannock County.
Thomas and his assistant coaches, Svetlana Pankratova and Lori Lafave, were honored for the 100-win milestone after the game.
“It’s always a tribute and it shows how well your teams have done when you reach a milestone like that one,” Thomas said. He said at the end of the game he was thinking of all the great players and assistant coaches who have helped George Mason’s program grow into a perennial contender for the state championship. “It felt really great,” he said.
Thomas started as an assistant coach for the girls junior varsity team in 1998 under Chris Madison, who was the head coach of the varsity team, and Lafave, who was the junior varsity head coach. He took over the junior varsity team a few years later and coached that team for two years before taking on the head coaching position for the boys junior varsity team in 2002. Thomas switched back to coach the girls junior varsity squad in 2006 as his daughter, Chantal Thomas, was starting to play high school basketball.
Thomas took over as the head coach of the girls varsity team ahead of the 2008-09 season and coached the team, and his daughter, to their first state championship since 1998. Since 2009, the Mustangs have won two more state championships, in 2010 and 2012, and they made it to the state semifinals in 2011.
“Our little school has made huge strides to becoming a very good program,” Thomas said.
The Mason team hosted William Monroe High School Wednesday, but results were not available at press time. The Mustangs were 5-0 in Bull Run District play going into that game.