By Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s varsity girls basketball team beat a pair of district opponents in the past week, albeit in different ways – they dominated one team and only soundly defeated the other. The Mustangs (6-2, 5-1) trounced Rappahannock County High School (1-5, 0-5) 58-8 last Wednesday and beat Strasburg High School (4-4, 2-3) 51-41 last Friday.
Mason head coach LaBryan Thomas said the Panthers are “a long way from being a good program”.
“I commend their kids because they work hard and they don’t give up. Their coaching staff [does] the best job with what they have,” Thomas said. “And it’s tough to play a team like that especially when you are uptempo like we are.”
Thomas said that the Mustangs have to change their pace against opponents like the Panthers but that it’s a good things because the team has to learn to play at that speed. Junior forward Micaela Albright said the Panthers were not as competitive as other teams the Mustangs have faced this season.
“I think it was almost good practice for us to be able to run through our plays and slow the game down and not worry so much about having a hard opponent,” Albright said. She said the Mustangs were able to focus less on defense and working hard to get the win and more on executing plays.
They had to worry about defense and effort in their next matchup against the Rams. Despite jumping out to a 7-point lead in the first two minutes of the game and forcing a timeout from Strasburg head coach Joel Morgan, the Mustangs committed seven turnovers en route to a 15-7 first quarter lead.
“We came out a little sloppy but we pulled it out,” said junior forward Katie Goodwin.
The Mustangs had a double-digit lead for most of the second quarter and outscored the Rams 17-16 as a result of a twelve-point contribution from George Mason post players. But a three-pointer at the buzzer from Rams’ junior forward Emily Melnikoff cut the Mustangs’ lead to nine going into the second half.
The three-pointer was part of a 7-2 run by the Rams to end the second quarter and could have been an eerie premonition for the Mustangs, who had four players with two fouls by the end of the half.
“That played into our advantage right there,” Morgan said. “That allowed us to cut [the lead] to under ten going into the half and hit that big shot at the buzzer.”
The Rams continued to take advantage of the Mustangs avoidance of continued foul trouble by staying within ten points of the lead for most of the third quarter. The Mustangs also committed five team turnovers during the third. But by the end of the quarter the Mustangs had a 15-point lead and wouldn’t lead by less than that until the final two minutes of the game.
“We’re lucky, I’m telling you,” Thomas said. “Because if we had been playing great teams we’d lose because they capitalize on those turnovers and unfortunately Strasburg didn’t capitalize on those all of those turnovers tonight.”
Albright led all Mustangs scorers with 11 points and was followed by Goodwin and freshman forward Maddie Cherry who scored eight points each. Senior center Mikala Alsberry was the leading Strasburg scorer with 11 points.
George Mason will play in the Pohanka Chantilly Classic starting Thursday and running through Saturday. Last season, the Mustangs reached the championship round of the holiday tournament, where they lost, 57-30, to McLean High School.