Central’s girls continue to roll while handing Mason rare district loss

Central's Tycara Scott is fouled by George Mason's Jenna Short during first quarter action Tuesday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Central High School’s girls basketball team has been on a surge during the second half of the season, and not even a visit from Bull Run District leader George Mason could cool off the Falcons on Tuesday night.

Central held off the Mustangs for a 45-43 win, extending its own winning streak to seven straight games while snapping Mason’s own eight-game win streak and handing the Mustangs their first district loss in two years. George Mason’s last regular season loss to a Bull Run District foe came on Feb. 4, 2016.

Falcons head coach Bryan Scott said the latest win “says a lot” about his team, which was 5-8 before starting its win streak.

“We’re kind of peaking right now,” said Scott, whose team is 12-8 overall and 6-2 in the Bull Run, “and I tell the girls, I preach to them after every game we win, this is the time of the year where you wanna peak.”

Central’s last loss came at George Mason, 40-36, on Jan. 12, and Scott said Tuesday’s rematch played out similarly to the first meeting except, of course, that the roles were reversed. On Tuesday it was the Falcons who built a lead in the first half and held off a run by the visitors over the final two periods.

Central's Ayanna Strother goes up against George Mason's Jenna Short, left, and Nicole Bloomgarden, right, during second quarter action Tuesday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Falcons took a 20-14 lead into halftime before Mason (15-5, 7-1 Bull Run) roared back to take a brief 1-point lead in the third period behind a 13-6 run powered by a trio of 3-pointers from Elizabeth Dodge.

Central recovered to take a 31-29 lead into the fourth and never trailed again, but the Mustangs tied the game four times in the final frame. The Falcons, leading by five, had a chance to potentially put the game away in the final three minutes but missed several high-percentage shots, opening the door for Nicole Bloomgarden’s 3-pointer that tied the game at 42-all with 1:10 remaining.

Central junior Kendall Herbaugh, who had just missed an open jumper along the baseline on the previous possession, delivered perhaps the play of the game when she swiped the ball from a Mason ball-handler at half-court and hit a layup to give the Falcons a 44-42 lead with 0:42 left.

“That’s what she does. She may miss a couple easy shots but she’ll come back somehow or another and make a great play and get us back into the game, whether it’s getting a rebound or a steal or something,” Scott said of Herbaugh, who finished with 4 points and seven rebounds in the win. “I love that about that young lady.”

The Falcons hit just one of four free throws over the final 16 seconds of the game, but Mason was 1-for-3 from the line after Herbaugh’s layup and came up short on a half-court heave at the buzzer.

Central's Maya Frye-Williams, left, prepares to go up under the basket to score as George Mason's Elizabeth Dodge, right, looks on during second quarter action Tuesday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I liked that they didn’t put their heads down, didn’t get scared,” Scott said. “I keep preaching to them, especially tonight, not to play not to lose, but play to win. I think that’s what we did.”

Tuesday’s victory highlighted again the Falcons’ recent dominance on the defensive end. Central held Mason to 16 percent shooting (4-for-25) from the floor in the first half, outrebounded the Mustangs 36-23 in the game and had nine steals among its 13 forced turnovers.

Central stuck primarily with its 3-2 zone but mixed in man and 2-3 zone defenses in the second half to keep Mason off-balance, Scott said.

“That’s what’s winning us these games, is our defense,” Scott said.

The defense helped make up for any offensive shortcomings for the Falcons. Central scored only 5 points in the first period but held Mason to 3, and Maria Marston and Ayanna Strother combined to lift the Falcons’ offense by scoring all 15 of the team’s points in the second period.

Strother finished with a game-high 15 points, nine rebounds and three steals, while Marston had 11 points and five steals. Tycara Scott scored 10 points to give Central three double-figure scorers.

The Falcons close out the regular season with a home game against Clarke County on Thursday and a road trip to Strasburg next Tuesday.