by Matt Delaney
George Mason’s varsity girls basketball team opened their season on the losing end of a 54-38 bout with Tuscarora High School on Nov. 29 out in Leesburg.
It was an upsetting outcome for the Mustangs, who returned a bulk of their core from last year’s 2A Regional tournament team. The goal was to build off that momentum by expanding each player’s role in second year head coach Michael Gilroy’s system, ultimately making for a more complete team.
Obviously one loss does not a season make, but it’s not the ideal start for a team that’s supposed to be taking the next step. “We got beat up pretty good tonight, [we] were down early and never [got] into the game,” Gilroy said. “It was a good, rude awakening for us.”
Mason knew coming in that Tuscarora would rely on its full-court press to dictate the flow of the game. Despite the advantage of awareness, the press capably disrupted the Mustangs offensive tempo, giving the Huskies easy buckets while keeping Mason’s offense out of sync.
Tuscarora’s press enabled them to hold an 18-9 lead by the end of the first quarter and a 28-14 advantage heading into halftime. Entering the third, the Huskies closed the door on Mason by nearly tripling their point total by putting up 17 to the Mustangs six. Even with a solid fourth quarter where Mason tallied 18 points to Tuscarora’s nine, it was too little too late to make a legitimate comeback.
The Mustangs’ typically reliable defense fell short on the night as well. What was the cornerstone of last year’s Regional run wasn’t in top form on Tuesday night, where just as it was with the offense, the defense stiffened up when the game was already out of reach.
“Our defense was not where it needed to be – on ball, off ball, communicating and rebounding,” Gilroy said.
The bright side of this loss is it isn’t a Conference 35 opponent and there are 17 more games to correct the issues. Mason played Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School on Wednesday night but results of the game were not available at press time. The Mustangs have their home opener on Friday against Bishop Ireton High School.