Mustangs use big second half to run away from Wildcats

Warren County's Cameron Ford sails in the lane with a running one hand shot over George Mason's Thomas Beddow during first quarter action on Dec. 9 in Front Royal. Ford was one of the top scorers in the area this past season. Rich Cooley/Daily file

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County’s boys basketball team hung around with George Mason for the first two quarters of Wednesday’s Bull Run District contest, but the experienced Mustangs broke the game open quickly in the second half.

George Mason used a run early in the third quarter to double its 10-point halftime lead and rolled to a 74-39 victory, stifling the Wildcats’ offense while forcing 14 second-half turnovers in the rout.

“We left the game with three timeouts, we could’ve called timeouts but at some point these kids have to learn – and I’d rather them learn now than later on – that we’ve gotta fight through runs,” Wildcats first-year coach Tony Clark said of George Mason’s hot start to the third period.

George Mason (3-0), which returned 10 seniors from last year’s squad that qualified for the Region 2A East tournament, carried a 33-23 lead into halftime before reeling off a 10-0 run in the first 3½ minutes of the second half.

Mustangs coach Chris Capannola said Mason was hindered by fouls in the first half but corrected that issue at halftime, which allowed the Mustangs to find more rhythm in its offense.

Warren County's Clyde Ritchie is caught in a double team by George Mason's Thomas Beddow, left, and Devin Thomas, center, during first quarter action on Wednesday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

George Mason out-scored the Wildcats 41-19 in the second half.

“Obviously the fouls in the first half took all of the momentum away,” said Capannola, whose team put Warren County in the double bonus at the free-throw line with their 10th team foul early in the second period. “… We’re an up and down team and it took us out of any flow. The idea was no fouls, play in the box … and then let’s get running. And it worked.”

Despite frequent visits to the free-throw line in the first half, Warren County (2-2) couldn’t take advantage. The Wildcats hit just 10 of 19 free throws in the first half and finished the game 10 for 24 at the line, a 41.7-percent mark.

“It was a 10-point game at half. Even if we shot 80-percent in that first half from the free throw line it’d been a 5-point game,” Clark said.

The Mustangs opened the game with a 13-2 lead but Warren County recovered with a 9-3 run that started with back-to-back floaters by junior Cam Ford and senior Clyde Ritchie that closed the gap to 16-11 late in the first period. George Mason extended its lead to as much as 13 points in the second period before a late 3-pointer by Wildcats junior Marqwon Haley sent Warren County into halftime trailing by 10.

Warren County's Robert Rutherford throws a pass over George Mason's Robert Tartt during first quarter action on Wednesday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

George Mason sank its first three shot attempts of the third quarter as part of its 10-0 run that featured buckets by five different players, giving the Mustangs a 43-23 lead with 4:25 left in the frame.

“When we’re running guys look for each other. No one’s trying to get theirs, which is a unique thing,” said Capannola, whose team shot 47.6 percent (30 for 63) from the floor in the win and nearly 60 percent in the second half. “All of these guys grew up together. They don’t care who scores. It’s really nice. When we’re sharing the ball like that we’re tough to beat.”

Haley ended Warren County’s nearly five-minute scoring drought with a 3-pointer from the corner with 4:05 remaining to cut Mason’s lead back to 17 points, but that would be as close as the Wildcats would get the rest of the way.

George Mason, which enjoyed a 40-32 rebounding edge while forcing 21 Wildcat turnovers, out-scored Warren County 22-9 in the fourth period.

Thomas Beddow (seven rebounds) led the Mustangs with 15 points on the strength of a trio of 3-pointers, while Douglas Bossart had 14 points and nine boards for George Mason. Twelve different players scored for the Mustangs.

Warren County's Brendan McMackin shoots over a group of George Mason defenders during first quarter action on Wednesday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

Ford led Warren County with 14 points while adding two steals. Haley had 8 points and Ritchie 7 points and two steals, while Robert Keeney pulled down 10 rebounds.

The Wildcats shot 33.3 percent (13 for 39) from the field in the loss.

“We knew what they were gonna do (defensively),” Clark said. “We knew that they were gonna scramble on us, especially in the half-court set. We talked about ways to get around it. I think we might’ve ran four or five offensive plays all night. We just didn’t execute at all.

“It’s just a culture thing here,” he continued. “We’ve gotta go on that floor and know that we can win and not be nervous and not be anxious because you’ve got a team coming in here with 10 seniors and their record last year. We’ve gotta get to that point where mentally we walk on that floor and we know we’re gonna win.”

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