George Mason High School’s girls basketball team came oh-so-close, but couldn’t clinch the Region 2B Title in a 45-42 loss to Buffalo Gap High School on Saturday in Harrisonburg.
Given the proximity to the Staunton-based Buffalo Gap, Mason (21-6) was playing as a road team despite wearing their home whites. And as the game wore down to the final tense minutes where both teams were trading blows with one another, the raucous Bison fans weighed on the Mustangs and affected their composure in the closing moments.
“I really think their fans affected us,” senior point guard Nicole Bloomgarden said. “They were getting loud and messing with our pacing, so we just need to settle into our game when it gets tight and do what we need to win.”
Mason entered the fourth quarter trailing 34-33 until junior guard Maddie Lacroix took a handoff from sophomore forward Daria Douglas and drove to the rack for two. A two minute scoring freeze was lifted when a Bison player grabbed an offensive board and kicked it out for a trey to send them up 37-35 with 5:41 remaining. Douglas knocked in her free throws to tie it back up, but a quick two inside and a split trip to the line – created by another offensive rebound – nudged Buffalo Gap ahead by three once more.
Bloomgarden responded with a deep three to even the tally. The following possession senior forward Jenna Short missed the first shot of her one-and-one, but senior guard Victoria Rund gathered the rebound and found Bloomgarden for a drive to the hoop to put the Mustangs up 42-40 with a little over minute left to play. However, Buffalo Gap hit a quick two and converted an and-one to go up for good. Mason launched two shots during their final possession to tie, but neither fell.
Keeping Buffalo Gap off the offensive glass proved to be a struggle throughout. Mason head coach Michael Gilroy thinks the team needs to be better at marking a man while Bloomgarden believes the guards should be more involved in snatching rebounds, especially ones that aren’t in the basket’s immediate area.
Creating scoring looks for the bigs was another rough spot for the Mustangs. Douglas and senior forward Kaylee Hirsch – who was named to the All-Region 1st team along with Bloomgarden – only combined for nine points with a bucket each from the field in what was a shootout between both squads’ backcourts, especially beyond the arc. Mason scored half of their points (21 on seven three-pointers) from downtown against Buffalo Gap. Exploring ways to get Douglas and Hirsch involved is a must, even if its only at the line since both are reliable free throw shooters.
Still, Mason ended February the same way they did January — with a loss.
Their previous defeat catapulted them to a third straight Bull Run District title and a gut-check trip through the Region 2B tournament. Now the most recent loss is sure to keep the Mustangs hungry entering the Class 2 State tournament against Poquoson High School in the quarterfinal this Friday in Williamsburg.
“They made a few more plays down the stretch, we had plenty of chances to make a layup down at the end,” Gilroy said. “It’s right there though, and if we win the next game we’ll get to face [Buffalo Gap] again which is all I want.”