George Mason High School’s girls basketball team had an upsetting end to a turnaround season when it lost 49-48 to Page County High School in the Region B semifinal last Friday.
Mason’s (13-13) downfall and the manner in which it happened made the loss all the more painful.
After holding a double-digit lead throughout most of the game, momentum began to shift to Page County in the fourth quarter. The Mustangs held a 40-31 lead entering the final frame, but an 11-2 run had the Panthers tied with Mason at 42 apiece with 4:30 to play. With the Mustangs trailing 46-44 with 26 seconds to play, freshman guard Zoraida Icabalceta nailed a three to push Mason ahead.
A harried final seconds of game play saw the Mustangs miss multiple chances to clinch the win. Page County missed a three before getting its own rebound. Mason fouled a Panther on the rebound, setting the hosts up for a two free throws. However, both were missed, but a Mustang deflected the ball out of bounds. Page County missed another shot after the inbound, only for a Mason to turn the ball over and allow the Panthers to get the go-ahead layup with seven seconds remaining.
“We had a difficult time rebounding and second and third chance points hurt us the entire game but definitely more in the fourth quarter,” Mason head coach Chris Carrico said.
Preceding all this tumult was near perfection by Mason. The Mustangs put together a 17-0 run thanks to three buckets from beyond the arc by Icabalceta and took a 20-7 lead into the second quarter. By halftime, the Panthers had trimmed the lead to 30-18, but Mason was still responding with big shots and key stops to stem any rising tide by Page County.
Although once the fourth quarter rolled around, Carrico admits that Mason stopped making shots that it was sinking throughout the game.
There is a positive spin to Mason’s unwelcome end to the season — that is, there was something worth being upset about to begin with.
The Mustangs entered January with a 3-9 record and a starting five full of freshman players logging their first varsity minutes in December.
Going from there to being two points away from a Class 2 state title berth (and what would’ve been a third straight for the program) is remarkable in itself. Expectations evolved rapidly for this young group, which is why the loss and the manner it came about will sting for a while, but Carrico was quick to point out the journey following the game.
“I was proud of our effort and while we were all disappointed they should walk out with their heads up,” Carrico added. “It was definitely a tough loss because you can think back to so many missed opportunities but we definitely came a long way to get to within one stop and rebound from playing in the regional championship and state tournament.”