The George Mason boys basketball team played their first three district opponents this past week. The Mustangs routed the Central High School Falcons (72-39) on Dec. 20, defeated the Clarke County Eagles (50-42) on Dec. 15 and lost to the Madison County Mountaineers (53-57) on Dec. 13.
It was the first time George Mason played an opponent from the Bull Run District since the Mustangs defeated the Eagles in the Region B semifinals last season en route to a Region B championship. The season ended for the Mustangs a few weeks after the regional championship in a loss to James River High School (31-67) in the Virginia 1-A state semifinals. But George Mason head coach Chris Capannola said this year’s team is loaded with seniors and returning players that have a “burning desire to get back [to the state tournament] and finish the job.”
Capannola said the Mason coaching staff thought they could dominate the Falcons and, besides a short run by the Falcons in the first quarter of the game, they did.
By the end of the first half, the Mustangs led 41-15 and the Falcons could not come within 20 points of the Mustang lead for the rest of the game.
Senior guard/forward Philippe Griffiths led the Mustangs in scoring with 13 points.
“We executed,” Griffiths said. “We did what we had to do. From first to second to third string, everyone came through.”
The starters did not play for the entire fourth quarter, and most of the third quarter. This is the first time this season that the Mustangs were able to build or maintain a big lead throughout the course of a game.
“We’ve at times had 10-point leads, sat back and let [opponents] get back into the game. They didn’t do that [against Central],” Cappanola said.
Clark County, who lost to the Mustangs in last season’s district title game, were much more competitive with Mason. The Eagles limited senior forward Nate Ogle to two points with a double team that left senior point guard Noel Obusan open to tally 17 points, four assists and four rebounds. Griffiths added 10 points and four steals and senior guard Eion Oosterbaan contributed eight points and two assists to the win over Clarke County.
The Mustangs started out against the Mountaineers with two three-pointers from Griffiths to give them a 6-0 lead. Then Madison County outscored Mason 19-4 for the rest of the half to build a 19-10 lead going into the third quarter. Griffiths sunk eight three-pointers in total and scored 26 points and Ogle scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Capannola decided to play senior guard Jeremy Stewart, who had just been medically cleared to play following a thumb injury, hoping he could help the team, but that did not work.
The Mustangs did play a tight game with the Mountaineers, but two turnovers and a foul committed by the Mustangs late in the fourth quarter secured the win for the Mountaineers.
“I know how good he is, and I figured he would just step in and at least be able to make the right pass, guard somebody but his wind wasn’t there, his handle wasn’t there and you can’t just walk into a game playing. That was totally on me,” Capannola said about the decision to play Stewart.
The Mustangs are set to play in the Joe Cascio Holiday Classic next, which tips-off on Dec. 27 in Falls Church High School’s gym.