By Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s boys varsity basketball team took advantage of a home court and the absence of a star player to beat Madison County High School 63-50 last Thursday. It was a “nice bounce-back win” for the Mustangs (5-5, 5-3), according to Head Coach Chris Capannola, after they had lost four games in a row to end 2013.
The Mountaineers (7-5, 4-3) were missing their leading scorer Matt Temple, who suffered injury in a loss to East Rockingham High School a few days before they played the Mustangs. Before his injury, Temple was averaging more than 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Mountaineers.
“We got a lot of easy baskets and made a lot of open shots, and we made them take shots they weren’t comfortable with,” Capannola said. “We are very good at home and we had four players score in double figures, so it was an all-around good performance.”
The Mustangs’ top four scorers against the Mountaineers were sophomores. Guard Joshua Allen led the team in scoring with 14 points and another guard, Elliott Mercado, followed with 13 points. Center Douglass Bossart and forward Robert Tartt added 10 points apiece to the Mustangs’ effort.
“After a rough first quarter, we were able to get our transition game going and force them into playing faster than they wanted to,” Capannola said. “We were up by 30 in the third quarter.”
The win against the Mountaineers came days after the Mustangs lost their final game of the Joe Cascio Holiday Classic 74-66 to West Potomac High School to finish in last place in the holiday tournament.
“We played much better against West Potomac than we did the first two games of the tournament,” Capannola said. “Even though we lost we got some confidence back, I think, which we really needed.”
Sophomores led the Mustangs in scoring against the Wolverines, too. Mercado led with 21 points and six assists – Capannola said he was the best player in the game on either team.
Tartt, who spent a lot of time on the bench because of foul trouble, scored 15 points for the Mustangs. Bossart added a season-high 14 points.
Toward the end of the third quarter the Mustangs had a few mental lapses that put them in poor position to compete down the stretch. They turned the ball over while they were ahead by two points and then turned the ball over three more times under their own basket. According to Capannola, this all happened in under a minute.
“We entered the fourth quarter down six and it was pretty deflating,” Capannola said. “Foul trouble hurt us again, too, and their transition game killed us.”
The Mustangs’ matchup against The Avalon School last Friday was cancelled due to inclement weather. They played Warren County High School (5-1, 5-1) last night, but results weren’t available at press time. They play A.D. Fontes Academy at home tomorrow night.
Next Wednesday, the Mustangs travel to Clarke County High School (2-4, 3-4) for a rematch against the Eagles. They beat the Eagles 68-33 earlier this season.
The Mustangs are in the race for the Bull Run District regular season title. As of press time, they only trail Warren County and William Monroe High School (5-1, 6-4) in the district standings and have rematches against every district opponent on their regular season schedule.
Capannola said his young team – with six sophomores, seven juniors and only two seniors – is improving with a little less than half of the regular season to play. He said the Mustangs need to show more poise when they perform poorly in games.
“We need to be able to handle adversity better, and that will be a huge key. When we are playing well, that positive energy is infectious and we raise our level even higher,” Capannola said. “But when the bad stretches happen, we haven’t been able to dig ourselves out of those holes consistently enough.”
He said he is looking for players on his team that will help keep the team’s morale high during low points and, moreover, have the ability to change the team’s momentum during down times.
“We need to find guys who can settle us down and get our vibe back to a positive one when things don’t go our way. Those things come with experience,” Capannola said. “We have guys who can physically do these things, but the mental part is the piece that we are lacking a bit. We’ll get there.”
George Mason High School’s girls varsity basketball team got back on the court last night with a game against Warren County High School, but results weren’t available at press time. The Mustangs (7-4, 6-1) haven’t played a game since their sixth-place finish in the Pohanka Chantilly Classic in December.
They faced more competitive opponents in the Chantilly Classic than they usually face during district play and will continue to do so over the next ten days, including matchups against two opponents they’ve lost to this season. The Mustangs still have their entire slate of district opponents to face again, including matches against Central High School and the regular-season finale at Warren County.
Their remaining schedule also includes a match next Tuesday against Bull Run District rival Clarke County High School, who beat the Mustangs 63-60 in their first game of the season. If the Mustangs lose this match, the Eagles (4-0, 6-0) will most likely be the first-place team in the Bull Run District. As of press time, the Mustangs are ahead in the district standings, but only because they have played and won one more district game than the Eagles.
The other big challenge for the Mustangs coming up is a rematch against Woodgrove High School, who beat them 59-54 in an early-season game. They play the Wolverines four days after hosting the Eagles.