The George Mason High School girls basketball team went to the Diamond State Classic in Wilmington, Delaware last week looking for a challenge. And a challenge they got.
The Mustangs lost back-to-back contests, almost unheard of for the two-time defending state champions. The losses drop the team’s record to 7-5.
“The competition was very good,” said Mason head coach LaBryan Thomas, just before practice earlier this week.
The Dec. 28 loss to Caravel Academy really stuck with the Mustangs. The team led by 10 points midway through the third period before losing 56-55. Thomas attributes the loss to missed free throws and “bad turnovers.”
“It was a tough loss for us,” the coach said. “We lost it down the stretch. We had some bad turnovers that cost us down the stretch.”
Team captain and starting point guard Leah Roth laid down some stronger criticism on her teammates for the loss.
“We got complacent,” she said before practice. “It was a really hard loss. It’s hard to lose the last six or seven minutes.”
Mason’s squad is young and freshman heavy, which makes Roth’s leadership, though she’s a junior, that much more important. She’s averaging 5.5 points per game and leads the team with 4.9 assists per game. She also leads the team with 39 steals.
Roth said that her role is to make sure her teammates are in the right mindset both on and off the court, and seeing to it that the Mustangs are on the same page.
“It’s way different than last year,” she said. “We’re very young. We have a lot of talent on the team. Just because we lost two players last year doesn’t mean we can’t do the same this year.”
Mason’s second loss at the Diamond State Classic came against a much bigger St. Elizabeth team 68-55.
“We were out-manned,” Thomas said. “We couldn’t handle their size.”
Thomas’ goal in playing in Delaware as opposed to somewhere closer to home was to get his players some better exposure. The trip accomplished that, as well as provided a lesson about closing out games.
“I think we learned a valuable lesson that we have to play for 32 minutes,” Thomas said.
The Mustangs played Tuscarora High at home on Wednesday (after this paper’s deadline), and play three consecutive road games in six days.
So many road contests in a short period of time can take its toll. Thomas plans to keep practice light, but can’t do anything about the travel.
“It wears on us,” he said. “It’s a long bus ride.”
Heading into the bulk of Bull Run District play, in which the Mustangs sport a 1-0 record, sophomore Stephanie Cheney leads the team in points per game at 20.5 and rebounds per game at 9. Freshman Ashley Alexander is averaging 13.6 ppg and 7.6 rpg.
Thomas thinks his team is ready to make some noise in Bull Run play.
“I think it looks good,” he said. “These kids really buckle down. Their heads are on straight. I think by going to Delaware and seeing the competition that we played against and seeing better competition, I think it’s really going to help us out.”
The Mustangs travel to Manassas Park High, who they defeated 64-32 at home last month, for a Friday game at 7:30 p.m.