Roughly two weeks out from the postseason, George Mason High School girls basketball team continues its New Year’s roll as they boat-raced Rappahannock County High School, 60-21, and Clarke County High School, 66-40, in the squad’s last two recent games.
There’s something about Mason (12-4) and the month of January. Their month-long six-game win streak has been sustained through a slate of Bull Run district matches and, more tellingly, has been largely carried by the defense’s ability to dictate the tone of games. Killing their opponents’ offensive momentum is why recent contests have been so lopsided and has also allowed the Mustangs to accomplish rare feats such as holding Rappahannock scoreless for the entire second quarter of Tuesday’s game.
“I don’t care who you’re playing, to hold any team scoreless [for a quarter] is amazing,” Mason head coach Michael Gilroy said. “We probably do more defensive drills in practice than offense, and that’s probably going to be the key to success if we’re going to make any strides down the road.”
Mason asserted itself early and often against the Panthers. Within the first four minutes of the first quarter, the Mustangs had already built a 14-2 lead. That advantage grew in the second quarter when five different players scored buckets in a variety of ways — corner three’s, putbacks on the offensive glass and defensive steals that created offensive fast breaks. By halftime, Mason led 37-5 and hadn’t allowed Rappahannock County to score since the last two minutes of the first quarter.
The Panthers broke the streak with a free throw early in the third quarter, but the Mustangs would outscore Rappahannock 15-2 in the rest of the period. Entering the fourth quarter up 52-6, Mason relented and cleared the bench to finish out the game.
Senior guard Nicole Bloomgarden had a landmark game as well, scoring her 1,000 career point on a trip to the free throw line to end the third quarter. The game was briefly stopped so Bloomgarden could give the game ball to her parents in the stands.
“At the beginning of my senior year, [Gilroy] told me I was close but he wouldn’t tell me how close I was because he thought I would try to score too much and get me off my game,” Bloomgarden said, who’s been on Mason’s varsity team since she was a freshman. “It was awesome to reach my goal.”
The Mustangs’ win over Clarke County last Friday had a similar trajectory to it. Mason bludgeoned the Eagles in the first quarter by taking a 21-3 lead, which ultimately proved insurmountable. At halftime the Mustangs led 40-14 and kept the starters in for some of the third quarter before letting the reserves in.
Senior forward Kaylee Hirsch led all scorers with 14 points, followed by sophomore forward Emma Rollins with 13 and Bloomgarden with 10. Seniors Elizabeth Dodge and Jenna Short also accounted for seven points each.
Mason is on the road next week as they travel to Strasburg High School tonight, Madison County High School on Saturday and Central High School next Tuesday, Jan. 30.