Finishing off their third week of the season, George Mason High School’s boys basketball team earned a hearty 66-52 win over Loudoun County High School on Dec. 14 followed up by a 78-67 loss to Washington-Lee High School on Tuesday.
It’s been an up and down start to the year for Mason (3-5) as they’ve faced multiple out-of-conference opponents with a mild level of success. One thing that has held true for the Mustangs has been their ability to hold home court, where they are 3-0 on the year, but transferring that confidence on the road has been troublesome. A bit more growing is in order, but it’s comforting for Mason to know there’s one court where they typically rule.
“We’ve got kids who can play, and they love to play here,” Mason head coach Chris Capannola said. “That’s a big thing with us; they protect the home court.”
When facing Loudoun County last week, the Mustangs took advantage of an early 15-10 lead in the first quarter to a 36-23 advantage by halftime thanks to hot shooting from senior guard Anish Chatterjee and junior forward Hollman Smith, who both connected from long range frequently in the quarter.
Coming out of the half the third prong in Mason’s offense, junior guard Max Ashton, found his rhythm and joined Chatterjee and Smith in helping keep a cushion from the pressing Raiders. Loudoun County’s offense – which moved at a rapid clip – is predicated on driving to the hoop then either finding a cutter for an easy bucket inside or kicking the ball out to the perimeter for a three-ball. The latter approach was favored by the team as they tried to cut down the Mustangs’ consistent seven to 10 point margin throughout the contest.
As the game entered the fourth quarter with Mason up 52-40, the Raiders began selling out for long range buckets. The strategy, while effective throughout the most of the game, became predictable to the heady Mustangs by the later stages as they began to clog passing lanes once Loudoun County’s guard’s entered the paint.
“I was up last night watching two of [Loudoun County’s] games, watching their point guard and learning all his moves, so I felt prepared guarding him and all of them,” Smith said.
Foul trouble ultimately did the Raiders in. Six of Mason’s final eight possessions wound up at the free throw line, where they went seven for 10 and closed the game out. Chatterjee’s corner three and a breakaway layup from Smith following a steal put the finishing touches on the win.
Against W-L on Tuesday, the Mustangs continued their road struggles. A slow start left them down 17-11 after one quarter and 35-21 by halftime. The large deficit proved to be too much for Mason. They shortened the Generals’ lead to 50-41 entering the fourth quarter, but the Mustangs and W-L exploded for 26 and 28 points, respectively, and prevented Mason from being able to mount a comeback.
The Mustangs will play their next game on Dec. 27 as a part of the opening match of the Joe Cascio Holiday Classic at Falls Church High School.