By Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s girls varsity basketball team dominated Northumberland High School with a 68-35 victory in the Group A, Division 2 state quarterfinals, and will move on to Virginia Commonwealth University for the semifinals of the state tournament.
The Mustangs got off to a slow start against the Indians last Saturday, who notched the first points of the game thanks to a 3-pointer from junior guard and team captain Tylisha Crockett. This resulted in an early time-out called by Mustangs head coach LaBryan Thomas.
“He just told us that we started flat,” said junior guard Jaya Chavern, who hit a 3-pointer to tie the game right after the time-out. “We needed to pull ourselves together and get pumped up, get excited for this game. This was a really big game and we didn’t have a lot of energy.”
The Indians retook the lead after sophomore forward Katie Goodwin fouled Northumberland junior forward Katie Crowther while she was shooting. Crowther hit her first foul shot, missed the second and Mustang senior forward Stephanie Cheney grabbed the rebound. Cheney passed the ball to sophomore guard Ava Roth, who found Cheney on the other end of the court for two points. The Mustangs never lost the lead after that trip down the court, which put them ahead 5-4.
“After I called that time-out and got them re-focused we started playing pretty good,” Thomas said. He said that the girls were having trouble getting to their positions in the 1-3-1 zone defense the Mustangs use against teams at the beginning of games.
Cheney’s field goal was the start of a 5-0 run, which ended when Crowther hit another foul shot, this time after being fouled by sophomore forward Gen Schmitt. The Mustangs outscored the Indians 11-5 for the remainder of the quarter and finished with a 21-10 lead.
The Mustangs kept building on their lead in the second quarter with a 7-0 run early in the period. They concluded a 9-0 run at the end of the first half after Chavern was fouled by freshman guard Rajaa Shabazz while she was shooting a 3-pointer. Chavern hit all three free throws and the Mustangs finished the half with a 39-17 lead. Cheney scored 17 of her 25 points in the first half.
Despite an early turnover at the beginning of the half, the Mustangs went on an 8-0 run to start the third quarter to go ahead by 30 points. Northumberland actually outscored George Mason 11-10 after that initial run, but finished the third quarter down by 29 points. The Mustangs finished off the Indians by outscoring them 11-7 in the fourth quarter.
In addition to her sixth straight game scoring 20 or more points, Cheney also grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked five shots. Goodwin scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Chavern scored 10 points and dished out three assists.
Roth, the other half of the Mustang dual point guard back court, scored four points, grabbed six rebounds and six assists against the Indians. She didn’t get much playing time as a freshman on the team last season, but is beginning to show the confidence of a seasoned veteran. At one point in the game Roth came down the court against Indian senior guard and team captain Nia Jones, who was pressing whichever Mustang guard came up the court with the ball. Roth shook Jones with a crossover and drove into the lane.
“A lot of people don’t give her a lot of credit but she runs this show for us,” Thomas said. “Between her and Jaya, they do a great job of getting the ball up the floor and getting us into our offense and I don’t think we’d be where we are if we didn’t have those two.”
In the state semifinals, the Mustangs will take on a Floyd County High School team who has only lost three games all season and has a point differential of over 1,000 points against opposing teams. Thomas said that Floyd is the best team the Mustangs have had to face all season – even better than the team from East Rockingham High School to whom George Mason lost twice.
“We need to come out strong from the very beginning. Floyd County is a very competitive team, very talented from what I hear. I haven’t seen them play,” Cheney said. “But with Floyd, there’s no messing around. In any state semifinal there shouldn’t be messing around.”
The Mustangs are scheduled to take on the Buffaloes Friday morning at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center.