A soft opening against Clarke County High School last Friday was followed by some aggressive acclimation as George Mason High School’s girls basketball team overcame an early deficit to win 54-40.
The final score belies how bleak things looked early on for Mason (7-10). Clarke County firmly planted its fist in the Mustangs’ mouth and discombobulation abounded when, like any good team, Mason didn’t let a weak start dictate the final outcome. The Mustangs toughened up on the fly, fought through an Eagles team hungry to steal a road win and came away with a lesson in controlling their mindset in the process.
“It was about not letting their physicality get to us,” freshman forward Megan Tremblay said. “We knew they were gonna come out strong and play hard, but it was just sticking to our game plan and what we had to do. Not focusing on them and their goal, but focusing on our stuff.”
Mason looked flatter than day-old roadkill initially. Clarke County was harassing the Mustangs’ offense by not allowing them to set up their looks, while taking shots in rhythm and finding some personal space in the paint on the other end of the court. The Eagles built an eight-point lead by the end of the first until Tremblay’s prayerful floater banked in to make it 10-4 heading into the second.
That’s when things changed for Mason. Freshman guard Zoraida Icabalceta snatched a Clarke County pass out of the air and took it to the rack for two, and had a drive that she dumped off to freshman forward Rianna Arsenault the very next possession to make it 10-8. Suddenly, there was life among the home whites.
The Eagles staved off the comeback for a bit when the team went 6 of 8 from the line in their next few series, but Mason was unrelenting. Senior guard Maddie Lacroix hit a three and freshman forward Bella Paradiso sank two free throws to put Mason up 20-16 heading into the half.
Right out of the gate in the third quarter, Lacroix registered a block, tossed an outlet pass to senior guard Emma Gardner who relayed the ball to Icabalceta who took it in for a layup to keep the heat on. Clarke County did recuperate and was formidable in the third, having a game-best 14 points in the frame.
The Mustangs, however, were just too sharp. A three from the Eagles to put them within two at 25-23 was answered right back by a transition bucket from Tremblay and an Icabalceta-to-Tremblay connection the next possession. Tremblay assisted junior forward Emma Rollins’ bucket on the inbound, drained a corner three and hit a pull-up jumper to cap off the quarter for the Mustangs.
Clarke County made a slight push with a three to end the third and a split trip to the line to start the fourth quarter, keeping the Eagles within five at 36-31. But again, Mason responded, this time with an 18-9 run to close the game out.
Mason hosts Central High School tomorrow night.