George Mason defeats Central

WOODSTOCK — Central’s youth and inexperience was apparent in Friday night’s girls basketball game against visiting George Mason.

The Falcons squandered a fourth-quarter lead. They scored only 13 points in the entire second half, matching their turnover total for the final two quarters. And they scored just one point over the final five minutes.

Central had its chances but ultimately fell short, 43-40, to the Mustangs, who have taken early control of the Bull Run District with their fifth straight district win to open the season.

“Our turnovers killed us tonight, and I think just our inexperience,” Falcons head coach Mallory Skarupa said. “I’m proud of our effort. We fought the whole time. We played hard the entire time. We’ve got to do a little bit better playing smart.”

Central (3-1, 3-1 Bull Run) held a 27-23 lead at halftime and maintained a 35-33 lead after the third period before things began unraveling for the Falcons.

George Mason, which experienced struggles of its own after senior Katherine Goodwin suffered a head injury in the first period and saw very limited action, slowly chipped away at the deficit in the final period.

The Falcons broke a 35-35 tie midway through the fourth quarter after back-to-back buckets by junior Brooklyn Pumphrey and freshman Ayanna Strother, but the Mustangs answered immediately with a 3-pointer by freshman Nicole Bloomgarden (15 points) to cut the lead to one point.

George Mason took a 40-39 lead on Bloomgarden’s stickback with four minutes to play, and both offenses struggled from there.

The Mustangs had multiple opportunities to put the game out of reach, but Mason made only 3 of 14 free throws over the final 3½ minutes. George Mason shot a miserable 30 percent (12 for 40) from the free-throw line in the win.

“We didn’t take advantage of it. But with your point guards being young, you’re going to struggle. Hopefully not like that anymore,” Mustangs head coach LaBryan Thomas said.

“We’re a better free-throw shooting team than that and we just couldn’t find the hole tonight, that’s for sure.”

George Mason’s struggles at the line opened one final opportunity for the Falcons with three seconds remaining. Central took a timeout following a rebound off a pair of misses at the free-throw line by the Mustangs, but the Falcons failed to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded.

“The plan was to get Ayanna off of a double screen for the 3,” Skarupa said. “Again, inexperience, not realizing ‘Hey, if I’m stuck with it … I’ve got to do something with it.’ But we told them in the locker room, it doesn’t come down to one play. It doesn’t come down to three seconds. It’s all the little things.”

Central seized some early momentum in the first half, as the Falcons turned an 11-10 first quarter lead into a 21-13 advantage in the second period. Junior Cianne Fields sparked the Falcons during a 10-0 run in the frame with a pair of steals that turned into quick baskets the other way.

The Falcons led 27-20 late in the first half, but George Mason sophomore Kenya Bliss knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut Central’s lead to four points going into halftime.

Central shot 31.4 percent (16 for 51) from the field in the loss while turning the ball over 25 times. The Falcons were also 8 for 18 from the free-throw line.

George Mason shot 31.1 percent (14 for 45) from the field and committed 17 turnovers.

“When they were in that little match-up zone we just tried to move the ball and take good shots. When they went to man-to-man that helped us out a little bit,” said Thomas, who added that the Mustangs made an effort to slow down the pace of the game after turning the ball over 13 times in the first half.

Fields and Strother finished with 10 points apiece to lead Central, while Pumphrey added eight points and six rebounds and Tamra Scott seven points and nine rebounds for the Falcons. Fields also had five steals.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com