The high of a victory was sandwiched in between two losses for George Mason High School’s boys basketball team at the Joe Cascio Holiday Classic last week.
That lone win came in a 48-33 drubbing of McLean High School in the second round of the tournament, and was bookended by double-digit losses to host Falls Church High School (64-44) and Herndon High School (67-51). In what was a tough tournament for the Mustangs, the team found itself still searching for some consistency as they enter the Northwestern District portion of its season next week.
“It was like day and night [to start the tournament]. We probably had our worst performance of the year as a team in terms of our aggression and defensive effort against Falls Church,” Mason head coach Michael Gilroy said after the team’s rough 9:30 p.m. tip-off against Falls Church was followed by a 10:45 a.m. tip against McLean the next day. “But we ended up flipping the script and coming here and beating a good McLean team. We took them out of their rhythm, which was nice because it was us yesterday.”
Trailing 10-8 to start the second quarter, Mason quickly sprinted ahead with the lead and never looked back. Consecutive three pointers gave the Mustangs a 14-10 lead and was built upon by junior guard Jack Calabrese and senior forward Hunter Broxson. Even after sophomore Duncan Miller’s bucket from the beyond the arc put Mason up 21-14 midway through the quarter, but the Highlanders came within one before a 5-0 Mustang run led by Broxson and junior guard Bobby Asel pushed Mason back up by two possessions at the half.
Right out of the gate in the third quarter Mason essentially ended the game. Senior forward Daniel Miller converted on a baseline move, Asel spun down low into an opening for another bucket and junior guard Deven Martino took a turnover from the McLean to the rack. Asel’s corner three a few possessions later concluded a 9-0 run that spanned nearly the entire quarter. Early in the fourth, McLean would pull its starters.
“When you make shots, you play better defense. That’s just it,” Gilroy added. “I wish you could play good defense whether you miss it or make it, but when you make shots you get energy and then the chatter starts on defense.”
The Mustangs copied the formula Falls Church used against them to take down McLean. Early three’s from the Jaguars put Mason in a funk defensively, which was compounded by poor communication. A small 16-13 deficit after the first quarter grew to a 33-20 lead for the hosts by halftime. Down 49-27 in the fourth allowed Falls Church to coast to a win.
Facing off against Herndon, the Mustangs appeared more poised for the challenge. The Hornets took a 17-13 lead into the second quarter and held a slight 35-30 edge by the half following some solid back and forth from both teams. Herndon’s advantage ballooned to 12 points by the start of the fourth as the Mustangs were capably handled by the Hornets.
Mason will host Skyline High School to start district play on Jan. 7.