Heating up at just the right time, the George Mason High School’s boys basketball team easily downed Rappahannock County High School twice in the past week with an unsettling 54-33 win over Strasburg High School sandwiched in between.
Now on a six-game win streak, Mason (12-7) is looking like it’s stabilized the previous up-and-down season at the high point. The offense, spearheaded by juniors Hollman Smith and Max Ashton, is settling into a comfortable groove while the defense is learning that diligence and communication breeds opportunity for steals, run outs, easy buckets and, best of all, wins. The mid-January turnaround is what makes the Mustangs’ game against top-seeded Central High School last night all the more interesting.
“We control our own destiny moving forward, if we win these last three games we are district champs, giving us the 1-seed and home court through the district tournament,” Mason head coach Chris Capannola said. “Pretty much all you can ask for as a player – it’s up to us.”
Against Strasburg on Jan. 27, Mason nearly bungled their chance to earn the Bull Run District’s top-seed. In the first quarter the Mustangs were down 9-0 early and only managed put up a putrid four points by the quarter’s end to the Rams’ 14. A cloud still hung over Mason’s head in the second quarter as they trailed 25-16 with roughly a minute remaining. That was until Smith hustled his way to three more buckets for the Mustangs and cut Strasburg’s lead to three at 25-22 entering halftime.
Smith’s heroics to end the half was the spark Mason needed to start the third quarter. The Mustangs went on to outscore the Rams 32-8 to end the game, with 14 and 18 points in the third and fourth quarter, respectively, compared to Strasburg’s five and then three points.
Smith led all scorers with 21 points and led the team in rebounds by bringing down seven in the absence of starting forward senior Thomas Creed. Ashton was close behind with 17 points of his own with two three-pointers.
Against Rappahannock County, both on Jan. 24 on the road and at home this Monday, Mason was consistently dominant. In each game the Mustangs flexed their muscles in the first half and wound up making the possibility of a loss improbable by the half.
On the road last week, Mason jumped out to a 20-7 lead after the first quarter and added 28 more points to their advantage in the second to enter halftime up 48-11. At home on Monday, a similar scene played out when the Mustangs put up 33 points in the first quarter to the Panthers’ two. They followed that up in the second quarter with 22 more points to take a 55-16 lead into the break. With reserves playing out the second half in both games, Mason was able to secure wins of 82-35 on the road and 75-27 at home.
It all leads up to the showdown with Central last night, though results of the game weren’t available by press time.
But Mason will have two more games to round out the year on a high note.
That starts with a road game against Madison County High School on Friday followed by a home game against Clarke County High School next Wednesday, Feb. 7.