By Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s varsity boys basketball team was defeated at home for the first time this season on Monday in a 56-43 loss to The Avalon School.
The Mustangs (6-6, 5-3), using a full-court press, went up 5-0 early in the first quarter. But the Black Knights inched back into the game in the ensuing minutes and took a 19-13 lead by the end of the first period. In the second quarter, the Mustangs got within two points of the Black Knights, but gave up nine unanswered points to finish the half behind 32-21.
The Mustangs, except for a spell in the middle of the third quarter, were behind by more than 10 points for most of the second half and trailed by as many as 17 points against the Black Knights.
“I could feel it; I knew it was going to be a slow-type thing,” said Mason Head Coach Chris Capannola. “But we never got into the game – mentally, physically, nothing.” He said the Mustangs were looking past the match against the Black Knights to their matchup Wednesday against Clarke County High School. Results of that game were not available at press time.
Kevin Davern, head coach of the Black Knights, said the match pitting them against the Mustangs, a small private and a small public school, usually makes for a good competition. He said the Black Knights handled the ball well in transition and scored points off of the transition.
“Our sophomore, Brendan Sloan, had a shooting streak tonight and a lot of the guys found him in places where he can shoot,” Davern said. “And then he put the ball on the floor, drove to the basket a couple of times, which is good.”
Sloan led all scorers with 24 points against the Mustangs and senior Zamir Courtney added 10 points to the Black Knights’ effort. Sophomore forward Robert Tartt led the Mustangs in scoring with 21 points and sophomore guards Eliot Mercado and Joshua Allen each scored six points.
Tartt said the home loss against the Black Knights on Monday and their 59-55 home win last Friday against Ad Fontes Academy were completely different from one another.
“We wanted to play, but it wasn’t that same drive that we had Friday night,” Tartt said.
On Friday, the Mustangs were down at the end of the first two quarters and gave up 10 points to the Falcon’s senior center Sam Berlin, who finished the game with 22 points. The Mustangs trailed 27-23 at halftime and played the Falcons close until the middle of the third quarter.
Tartt scored two points to bring the Mustangs within one point of the lead. The Mustangs regained possession of the ball when sophomore Douglas Bossart drew a charge. On the ensuing trip down the court, Allen hit a 3-pointer to put the Mustangs ahead 35-33. They didn’t trail for the rest of the game after that.
“The three is kind of a momentum-changer, and that’s why it’s important and that’s why I love to shoot the three,” Allen said. “It gets everybody pumped up … everyone gets excited and you get the momentum and everyone starts playing better as a team.”
Allen and Mercado both led the Mustangs in scoring with 20 points in the win over the Falcons. Bossart followed them with eight points.
“I thought it was the best game we played all year as a team,” Mercado said. “Even people that came off the bench, like Marcus [Zack-Russell] played a really good game. He had two 3-pointers in the first half to keep us in the game. But overall it was just a huge team effort.”
Capannola said the Mustangs played their best road game of the year in their 57-45 loss against Warren County, despite hitting only 18 of the 55 shots they took against the Wolverines. The team also went eight for 15 from the free-throw line.
“They’re big. They can shoot. We kind of sat back in a zone against them, and they hit some threes on us and that kind of blew the game open,” Capannola said. “We played really, really hard, but again, we couldn’t make shots.”
Bossart led the Mustangs in scoring against the Wolverines with 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Mercado scored 11 points and had seven assists and five steals against the Wolverines. Tartt was the leading rebounder for the Mustangs in the game with 10 boards. He also scored eight points and five steals. The team had a season-low 11 turnovers.
The Mustangs play at home against Manassas Park High School next Monday and play William Monroe High School on the road next Wednesday.