By Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s varsity boys basketball team lost to Falls Church High School 62-44 last Friday in the opening round of the Joe Cascio Holiday Classic. The Mustangs (4-4, 4-2) were the first to score in the game, but finished the first quarter down 11-6 after committing seven turnovers.
The Mustangs limited their turnovers – committing only three – during a 5-1 run that opened the second quarter. After the run, the Jaguars were only ahead by three points.
“We weren’t awake,” said Falls Church Head Coach T.C. Papageorge. “George Mason came out with more intensity. It’s sad that that’s what it took, but our kids woke up after a few minutes and our kids started applying ball pressure really well and it just carried the rest of the game.”
George Mason committed five more second-quarter turnovers as a result of the Jaguars’ full-court pressure. When the Mustangs were able to break the Falls Church press they still suffered from poor shooting and the Jaguars finished out the half by outscoring the Mustangs 16-4.
“We just stayed patient. We never panicked,” Papageorge said. “Jordan [Coneys] was in foul trouble in the first half and we had some guys step up and make plays.”
Papageorge specifically mentioned junior forward Nate Thatcher, who scored eight points for the Jaguars during that second-quarter run. Although Coneys, a senior guard, had two fouls in the first half and sat on the bench as a result, he scored 10 points and stole the ball five times. The Jaguars finished the half up 28-15 and lead by no fewer than 13 points for the rest of the game.
“I think we got a little rattled by their quickness, which shouldn’t happen, but it does with young kids sometimes,” said George Mason Head Coach Chris Capannola. “And it just sort of snowballed from there.”
The Mustangs only got 21 points from their three leading scorers – forward Robert Tartt and guards Josh Allen and Elliot Mercado – who are all sophomores. The trio had been combining to score an average of more than 40 points coming into the game against the Jaguars.
“We just couldn’t score. I mean, we passed up some shots we usually take and we back-ironed a bunch of short ones,” Capannola said. “When the ball doesn’t go in the basket – it’s impossible to play defense all game when you can’t score.”
Tartt led the Mustangs in scoring with 15 points and sophomore center Douglas Bossart added seven points. Coneys led the Jaguars in scoring with 16 points followed by Thatcher and senior forward John Gray, who both scored 13 points. Tartt said that the Mustangs didn’t play hard enough as a team to get the win.
“We got lucky on some wide open shots, knocked them down,” Tartt said. “But then altogether they just outplayed us. They wanted it more than we did and we can’t have that. We’re losing too many on the road.”
The Mustangs lost on Saturday in the consolation bracket to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, 47-3 and lost to West Potomac in the seventh-place game Monday.
The Jaguars finished in third place, beating J.E.B. Stuart after losing to Lee High School in the semifinal round.
Mountain View won the holiday tournament, topping Lee High School in the finals Monday.
The Mustangs open the New Year with two home games – one against Madison County High School Thursday night and one against The Avalon School Friday night. They travel to Warren County next Tuesday to play the Wildcats.