It came right down to the wire in one of the most gripping state championship games in memory, but Coach LaBryan Thomas’ GMHS Mustang girls held on tenaciously to defeat Gate City, 50-47, here today.
It’s the fourth state title, overall, for the Mason girls, first winning in 1998 and then in 2008 and 2009. Thomas was the coach of those last two champions.
But last year in the state Final Four tournament, the Mustang girls were humbled by Radford in a blow out. That made today’s win all that more sweet said Lauren Kane, speaking to reporters after today’s game.
It was four clutch free throws by Kane in the final 1:23 of the game that held the lead for Mason, only a single point ahead at the time, 45-44, at the time.
“I was nervous,” Kane told reporters. “In fact I’ve never been that nervous in my life.” She said she was so nervous she was surprised to see all four of the shots go in.
Mason’s chances dimmed when star center Stephanie Cheney fouled out with more than four minutes left. But Katie Goodwyn filled in, winding up with 11 rebounds for the game, and Krista Kelly also played a major role. Ashley Alexander was also stalwart in the end, despite playing with four fouls. She hit Mason’s only three pointer in the game.
Kane finished with 16 points Alexander with 11 and Cheney with 10 to lead Mason scoring. Cheney also blocked five shots, and Mason blocked eight shots overall, and Gate City had none.
Shutting down Gate City’s two biggest talents, Jordan Gose in the middle and her sister Morgan Gose on the perimeter was key to Mason’s victory.
“This is the hardest working team I’ve ever coached, and I am proud to be their coach,” Thomas said.