George Mason Mustangs Win Region B Title
By Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s girls varsity basketball team beat Clarke County High School 56-38 in the Region B championship last Saturday, after defeating Chatham High School 64-46 in the regional semifinal last Thursday, and will move on to the state tournament this weekend.
“It was a good game. The kids played very well,” head coach LaBryan Thomas said of the game against Chatham. “We played good team defense and the bench came in and contributed.”
Senior forward Stephanie Cheney had her second straight game scoring at least 30 points and grabbed 19 rebounds against Chatham. Junior guard Julianna Rollo scored 12 points, all of which came from 3-pointers. In the quarterfinal game against William Monroe High School, Rollo missed all of her 3-point attempts.
“I tell her she’s got to shoot all the time,” Thomas said. “We told her to settle down,” and not rush shots. But something else could have put Rollo back in her 3-point sinking zone.
According to Thomas, the Chatham player guarding Rollo stopped guarding her on the perimeter to double-team Cheney in the first quarter. He said she came down the court and hit 3-pointers on two consecutive trips to let them know to take her seriously. Thomas said the same thing happened in the second half.
Junior guard Jaya Chavern scored seven points, dished out four assists and grabbed two rebounds, and sophomore guard Ava Roth grabbed five rebounds and had seven assists against the Cavaliers. Sophomore forward Katie Goodwin scored 11 points and snatched 10 rebounds in the region semifinal.
“When you do crazy stuff to Steph, Katie is on the other side of the basket to grab the offensive rebound,” Thomas said. While Cheney is averaging 21.3 points per game this season, she has scored 30 or more points in three of the last five games.
“I kind of hold Steph back during the regular season. I don’t want to embarrass teams,” Thomas said. “But when it’s playoff time and everything’s on the line, you can’t hold them back. You’ve got to let them play.”
The Mustangs faced the Eagles for the fourth time this season in the Region B championship. Thomas said they “were lucky enough to win all” of their match-ups against the Eagles.
Cheney scored 23 points and grabbed 16 rebounds and Goodwin scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds against the Eagles. Chavern scored two points and Roth scored four, and the duo combined for 11 assists against the Eagles. Earlier this season, Chavern said the Mustangs’ strategy of having two point guards in the starting line-up is “unique.”
“With a player like Stephanie,” Chavern said, “our job is really just to get it down the court and into Stephanie and Katie’s hands and let them take care of the rest.”
Because the Eagles made it to the Region B finals, they automatically qualified for the state tournament. This means the two teams could face off again. But for that to happen, they would both have to make it to the state championship. The closest the Eagles have gotten to beating the Mustangs was in their first match of the season when they lost by three points. The Mustangs won the other match-ups by an average of 16 points.
The Mustangs have dominated the majority of their opponents this season. Their average margin of victory is 22.6 points in their 23 wins this season and their average margin of defeat is 12.8 points in their five losses. Their last lost was over a month ago against East Rockingham High School.
“I think the last loss to East Rockingham woke them up,” Thomas said. “I don’t have to worry about telling these kids to focus.”
He said that with team captains like Cheney, senior guard Maya King and senior forward Taylor Briese, his job is easier.
“The kids are on a mission,” Thomas said. “They want to get back to VCU and defend their title.”
The Mustangs play North Umberland High School in the quarterfinals of the state championship Saturday afternoon at Robinson Secondary School. If they beat North Umberland, they play in the state semifinals in Richmond on March 8.
“As long as we play good, strong defense we have a chance to come out with a win,” Thomas said. “Everything starts with our defense.”