by Matt Delaney
George Mason High School’s varsity girls basketball team got back to form with two wins in the past week, topping district opponent Warren County High School 49-35 on Wednesday, Dec. 9 and completing the season sweep of Riverside High School on the road 66-22 on Monday, Dec. 14.
Spoils from the victories include holding second place in the Bull Run District, which is the preceding hurdle in pursuit of their chief goal: a birth into the 2A Virginia High School League state tournament.
“They know our ultimate goal is to get to that State,” head coach Michael Gilroy said. “I’ve been preaching them ‘let’s not look ahead in the schedule just win our next game and that’ll take care of business.”
Yes, it’s only two and a half weeks into the season, so short-sightedness is to be expected. But the Mustangs are showing some staying power with a bedrock of swarming defense.
When the Mustangs aren’t getting the turnovers that lead to fast break points, their defense is forcing bad shots, which allow for outlet passes off rebounds to push the ball up court.
“It’s more fun than playing play-by-play, because you can actually just play basketball rather than have it drawn up for you the entire time,” junior guard Sarah Lubnow said. “It’s…high-paced and intense.”
This style of play had Mason leading 8-5 by the end of the first quarter against Warren County. And it carried them to a 22-10 lead at halftime while their offense was trying to find its footing. In the second half, Mason began converting free throw attempts and second chance opportunities, both of which they struggled to do in the first half.
Sophomore center Kaylee Hirsch led the Mustangs with her first double-double on the year, posting 13 points and 14 rebounds. Sophomore guard Nicole Bloomgarden added 14 points and Lubnow led the team in assists with four.
Defense stole the show but could not hide some of the team’s deficiencies, namely their lack of punch offensively. As planned, Mason’s scoring came mostly in transition and from defensive pressure, but that doesn’t compensate for a clunky offense.
“It looked good at times and it looked ugly at times,” Gilroy said. “We have no sense of end-of-game situation, time and score. That’s on me. We’ve got to be able to simulate it in practice better and get these girls to know what a good shot is.”
Good news is the players are beginning to come into their own, like Hirsch, who seemed much more at home in the paint than she did previously.
“In the first games I [wasn’t] really confident.” Hirsch said. “I still need to develop in the post position, but I definitely feel I’ve done better.”
Hirsch will grow as she gets more experience, but she will be aided by Lubnow who is also beginning to stake her claim as a team standout. Case in point, the team got off to a slow start against Riverside before Lubnow entered the game.
“Sarah got out there right away and was instantly feeding everybody,” Gilroy said. “She’s a pass-first guard and she changes our style of play when she comes in…that’s what kind of sparked us.”
Lubnow played her part on an offense where 12 players scored by contributing six points of her own, the Mustangs’ defense kept Riverside below double-digit scoring in every quarter.
Bloomgarden scored eight against Riverside, freshman forward Raquel Dod dropped nine and Hirsch led the team with ten.
The Mustangs will face Central High School on Wednesday, Dec. 16.