Sports

Mustangs Punch Ticket to States

Mason senior Elliot Mercado played a big role in the lead the Mustangs carried into the locker rooms at halftime. (Photo: Drew Costley/News-Press)
Mason senior Elliot Mercado played a big role in the lead the Mustangs carried into the locker rooms at halftime. (Photo: Drew Costley/News-Press)

by Matt Delaney

Two tough contests were awaiting George Mason’s varsity boys basketball team to start the Region 2A East Tournament, but they answered the call with a 61-41 win over Prince Edward County High School on Tuesday, Feb. 23 and a 96-73 win over Stuarts Draft High School on Friday, Feb. 19.

Prince Edward, a rangy and aggressive team, presented a challenge the Mustangs hadn’t faced since their game against John Paul the Great High School during Mason’s winter break.

“I told the guys [at halftime] ‘everybody we see from here on out is gonna be like this:’ breaking at the ball, athletic, trapping. We need to adjust better to it” head coach Chris Capannola said. “We thought we could go to the basket on them [and] kick the ball out.”

Leading 17-12 going into the second quarter, the Mustangs built their lead to 31-19 by half but felt Prince Edward was still potent on offense and adjusted by shifting to a 2-3 zone defense in the second half.

“They were going by us and they were getting to the rim too easy. We knew they had two shooters so we said, ‘If you’re gonna beat us, it’s gonna be from outside the arc,’ – it worked.” Capannola said.

Reconfiguring the defense changed the game. Prince Edward never came closer than seven points to Mason’s lead. Conversely, the Mustangs continued to dissect the visiting Eagles on offense, adding 12 points in the third quarter and 18 in the fourth en route to the win.

The physicality in Tuesday’s game was the opposite of Mason’s fast-paced game against Stuarts Draft last Friday.

Stuarts Draft resembled a track team more than basketball team, racing around the court trying to wear Mason down to a point of weakness. Little did they know Mason could play faster, and better, than Stuarts Draft.

An early 12-0 lead by Mason was never lost, ending the first half up 42-24. In the second half Mason continued to bully Stuarts Draft, adding 22 and 30 points in the third and fourth quarter, respectively.

The Mustangs play in the Regional semifinal on Thursday. More importantly, the win over Prince Edward grants the Mustangs entry into the 2A State Tournament starting next weekend.

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