By Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s boys varsity basketball team won its third straight game last Friday in a 58-44 district matchup against Central High School. The Mustangs (9-7, 8-3) are in third place in the Bull Run District and second in Conference 35 with five games left in the regular season.
According to Head Coach Chris Capannola, George Mason had an 11-2 lead two minutes into playing the Falcons. “We jumped on them early and that was a huge factor in the game,” he said.
Capannola said sophomore forward Robert Tartt, who scored eight points in the first quarter, picked up two fouls in the first quarter and sat for the remainder of the first half. As a result, the Falcons (6-11, 4-8) were able to cut the Mustangs’ lead to two at halftime.
The Mustangs jumped back out to a large lead early in the second half.
“We started both halves really fast and that gave us some breathing room,” Capannola said. “Once our transition game gets going, we are tough to stop.”
Sophomore guard D’Montae Noble was part of that transition onslaught in the second half – he scored all of his seven points and added four steals and four assists in the third and fourth quarters. The Mustangs had 15 team steals against the Falcons.
Capannola said senior guard Wesley Coupard contributed a strong defensive effort to the Mustangs’ performance.
“Wesley Coupard is a relentless competitor for us, and although he didn’t score Friday he played excellent defense on a bunch of different Central players,” Capannola said. “And his shots were all good ones, they just didn’t fall.”
Tartt led the Mustangs in scoring against the Falcons with 20 points on 10-17 shooting and added six steals and six rebounds.
“He brings so much energy when he’s on the court,” Capannola said. “He’s an excellent finisher and does so many things for us on both ends.”
Sophomore guard Elliot Mercado scored 13 points and had four steals and six assists, and sophomore center Douglas Bossart scored 12 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and blocked three shots against the Falcons.
The Mustangs’ victory over the Falcons was their fourth in five games and their fourth district win in five district contests after losing four straight games to close out 2013.
“We have finally settled on what offenses we are going to run, and it seems the kids are more comfortable now,” Capannola said. “It was hard earlier in the year; we kept tweaking and changing things and adding things, and you could see the guys were confused at times in the games. You can’t play like that and be successful.”
George Mason is holding onto a half-game lead over Strasburg High School for third place in the district and conference with a little more than a week left in the regular season. The Mustangs’ first defeat of their late-December losing streak was a 62-57 loss to the Rams (11-7, 7-5).
“In watching the tape of our first Strasburg game, I am shocked at how bad we played,” Capannola said. “Yet we had the lead in the fourth quarter on the road, so that’s a good sign.”
The Mustangs play the Rams at home on Friday – if they win that game, they are nearly a lock for a top seed in the district and conference playoffs, the latter of which would earn them an automatic bid in the Region 2A East playoffs.
“So to say this game is huge for us – and them – is not an overstatement,” he said.