The George Mason High School boys varsity basketball team claimed its first win of the season last Wednesday, topping Briar Woods High School by a score of 53-46.
A high-octane defensive effort paved the way for the win, with the Mustangs forcing 36 turnovers to disrupt the Falcons all evening long. Mason's senior backcourt led the team in the scoring ledger, with senior Mike Schwengel notching 15 points, while Jake Johnson added 13. Senior forward Mike Straub added 12 in the winning effort.
“It was nice to get one,” Mason Head Coach Chris Capannola said. “Our effort was good and our intensity was excellent, especially defensively. We forced 36 turnovers though, so we almost had to win.”
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak that made for a chilly start to the season for the Mustangs. For much of that run Mason was without the services of sophomore center Jordan Cheney (dislocated kneecap) and junior swingman Joel Chandler (broken wrist). Both players were back in action for the Mustangs' game at J.E.B. Stuart High School last Friday, but their returns could not improve on a miserable third quarter in which the Mustangs scored just five points. That respite was all that the Raiders needed to improve on their 27-25 half-time edge and prevail 59-45.
Straub scored a game-high 13 for Mason, while Cheney added eight and Jake Johnson chipped in with six. Chandler netted five points in his first game back.
“Stuart beat us on the glass and rode one hot shooter to the win,” Capannola said. “We missed way too many easy shots and couldn't get that big stop when we needed it. Joel and Jordan were about at 50 percent which didn't help either.”
Chandler was firing on all cylinders against Loudoun County on Monday night, scoring 19, as the Mustangs gave the undefeated Raiders all they could handle on their home court. However, leading by a single point, the Mustangs couldn't stop a Loudoun County shot from finding the bottom of the net with 12 seconds remaining and slipped to 1-5 on the season after the one-point loss, 59-58.
As it is with most close games, more scrutiny is paid to the details, and following the loss, Capannola pointed to his team's 8-of-16 performance from the free-throw line and “countless” missed layups as small factors that added up to defeat.
“We came back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter, which showed a lot of character, I was proud of the effort,” Capannola said.
The Mustangs' coach particularly applauded the effort of Chandler who was “unguardable” when he was on the court. Chandler's effort will have to remain high as the injury bug has again bitten Mason, with Johnson (possible hip flexor strain) and Josh Brew (Grade 2 concussion) now sidelined and Cheney back among the walking wounded with inflammation in his knee. All three will not suit up until after the New Year.
“Jake and Jordan are starters and Josh Brew is a significant contributor off the bench, so we are really thin right now,” Capannola said. “January can't get here fast enough for me.”
But first the Mustangs will face a rematch with Briar Woods at home this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Mason then heads out to Chantilly for its holiday tournament on Dec. 27 when the Mustangs will face the Jaguars of Falls Church High School.