George Mason High’s varsity boys basketball team pulled off a thrilling third place finish after going 2-1 in the seventh annual Joe Cascio Holiday Classic at Falls Church High School over the holiday break.
The de-facto bronze medal game between Mason and Colgan High School came down to frenzied final quarter. The Mustangs let an 11-point third quarter lead evaporate and a Colgan three-pointer put the Sharks up 42-41 with 4:15 remaining but then Mustang sophomore Max Ashton sunk a three-ball following an offensive rebound.
Ashton netted another three-pointer and a free throw to give Mason a 48-44 advantage with 1:25 left in regulation, but a quick two and Colgan steal on consecutive possessions knotted up the score at 48 apiece. The Mustangs beat the Sharks’ press as junior guard Anish Chatterjee found sophomore forward Hollman Smith alone for easy lay-in. Colgan then split a trip at the free throw line to come within one at 50-49, but with game’s final possession and only two seconds remaining Mason just needed to disrupt the inbound to hold on for the win.
“They came out in a box set, which I assumed was going to be a backside pick and we all read it,” head coach Chris Capannola said of the game’s harried final play. “All four guys made a nice play on the ball and we put [junior forward Thomas] Creed on the ball to make them throw it really high, and it worked out.”
Friday’s savory victory dispelled the bad taste left by last Thursday’s 57-39 loss against Cypress Bay High School. Mason looked in control early on with a 18-8 lead midway through the second quarter, but once the Lightning applied their full court press the Mustangs came apart at the seams and sacrificed 15 points while only managing one to go into halftime down 23-19.
The press continued to cause problems for Mason in the third and fourth quarters as careless turnovers became easy lay-ins that steadily increased Cypress Bay’s lead.
“We must’ve had, I’m guessing, close to 30 turnovers,” Capannola added. “We were up 18-9 and in pretty much in control, and they cranked it up and we just didn’t respond. I was disappointed with that, but again, it’s the next day, and we really showed our true colors [against Colgan].”
On Tuesday, the Mustangs were back on the court for a district game against Bull Run leader William Monroe. After falling behind early, 2-10, Mason fought back to take a one-point lead after the first quarter.
The Dragons and Mustangs would trade leads throughout the night and entered the final quarter tied. With less than eight seconds on the clock and the score knotted at 61 each, William Monroe came out of a time out and sunk a three at the buzzer to win the game. The Dragons improve to 10-1 on the year while Mason falls to 6-5.
The Mustangs’ next game is on the road tonight (Jan. 5) against Rappahannock County High School.