After flirting with its second comeback in consecutive games, George Mason High School’s boys basketball team fell 51-46 to Bishop O’Connell High School last Thursday.
The juice officially ran out of Mason’s magic wand against the Knights (at least for this week). The Mustangs swiped a victory right out of visiting James Monroe High School’s hands on Dec. 17 following a frantic 8-2 run in the game’s final 45 seconds. But O’Connell proved to be composed enough to hold onto its dwindling lead before Mason could no longer compete with the clock.
“We almost had it. I wish [junior guard] Devin [Martino] would’ve pulled that last thing just to see, but I understand why, it was contested,” Mason head coach Michael Gilroy said, referring to an open look at a three Martino had with 20 seconds to go. “I told them we ain’t walking out of here with our heads hanging. We gave them all we had and we put a scare into that squad.”
Martino’s clutch-and-holster of the ball effectively ended what was almost another startling comeback for the Mustangs.
O’Connell found the net on its third-chance with 2:51 to go in the game. The visitors put some garnish on the score with two, split trips from the line 30 seconds later to take a 48-39 advantage. But Mason, while a bit harried in their offensive approach, muscled through a near disaster at midcourt to regain its momentum.
An attempted pass was batted away by one of the Knights, who was then chased down by a Mustang to knock the ball loose again. Junior guard Bobby Asel emerged with the possession and launched the ball to senior forward Hunter Broxson down low for a strong layup that re-energized Mason, now down 48-41. O’Connell’s empty 1-and-1 chance from the free throw line opened the door for Martino’s elbow three to put the Mustangs within four and 1:23 to play.
The Knights countered with a quick transition bucket to jump back up 50-44, but Asel wasted no time on the next offensive set by driving lane for a tough two. Another fruitless chance at a 1-and-1 for O’Connell gave Mason an opening to really make the game interesting. Again, the ball found Martino along the right elbow behind the three-point line, but the junior only made eyes at the basket before putting the ball on the floor. A turnover soon afterward would seal the game.
O’Connell’s tenacity on the offensive glass consistently trumped the Mustangs’ efforts to rally in the second half. It was the Knights’ second and frequent third attempts — often in close range — that cushioned their lead and dampened Mason’s morale. A big bonus the visitors had was their size at nearly every position.
“It was a lot of their guards. They had one player that is a 6’4 guard, which we don’t have. We have 6’3 big men,” Gilroy added. “We stress that other team’s have guards who can rebound, but at the end of the day shots go up and you’ve got to find a body.”
The Mustangs will play at 9:30 p.m. to open the Joe Cascio Holiday Classic at Falls Church High School tonight.