WOODSTOCK — Central girls basketball coach Bryan Scott said he was walking off the floor at Jerry Walters Court after Wednesday’s home win over George Mason when one of the referees, who had just officiated his first Falcon game of the season, told him that his team looked “pretty good.” Scott replied, “I’ve been waiting for this game for a long time.”
Central’s 55-44 win over the Mustangs, the defending Bull Run District champs and a team trying to reload after a run to the Class 2 state semifinals last season, was easily the Falcons’ most complete game of the season to this point. Scott went a step further when praising his team’s performance after the game.
“Honestly, I just told them that’s probably one of the best games all-around-wise that I’ve been a part of since I’ve been the Central girls basketball coach,” the fifth-year head coach said.
Not known for their scoring prowess, the Falcons (7-6) were efficient on offense against George Mason (4-10), knocking down 54 percent of their field-goal attempts while posting their second-highest point total of the season. Defensively Central held the Mustangs, a team that has played a schedule heavy on Class 6/private schools, to 30 percent from the field, and when the Falcons carried a 3-point lead into the fourth period, they maintained and extended that advantage by hitting 13 of 14 free throws over the final three minutes.
It was quite the turnaround from Central’s 64-38 loss to Clarke County in the Bull Run District opener last week.
“Coming back from the hard loss to Clarke County in our first district game, we really wanted to get this win here,” said Falcons junior forward Maria Marston, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds against the Mustangs, a team that pounded the Falcons in the district tournament championship game a season ago. “We really needed it. We’ve been working really hard in practice after the loss to Clarke because we wanted a district win.”
That much showed in the second half on Wednesday night. Central took a 24-22 lead into halftime after senior forward Kendall Herbaugh (12 points, seven rebounds) hit a 3-pointer from the corner and a bucket in the paint to close out the second quarter and quickly pushed the lead to nine with a 10-3 run to open the third period.
Freshman guard Erika Hutton got the run going when she hit a baseline runner on the Falcons’ first possession of the second half, and junior Maya Frye-Williams — who led the team with 15 points and added five rebounds and five assists — followed with back-to-back buckets in transition before Marston’s basket on the next possession forced a Mason timeout.
Tycara Scott’s bucket in the lane off a Marston assist answered a Mason free throw and gave the Falcons a 34-25 lead with 4:55 left in the third quarter.
“We still had a lot of turnovers, I think we ended up with 18, but we just ran our offense and (got out) in transition,” Bryan Scott said. “Maya Frye played big tonight, getting in transition and finishing layups. Things like that, we did a lot of good things and again, that’s probably one of the best complete games I’ve been a part of since I’ve been here.”
Back-to-back 3-pointers from senior Maddie Lacroix and freshman point guard Zoraida Icabalceta a minute later got Mason back in it, and it was a 38-35 game entering the final period.
Central led by that same margin when Icabalceta (15 points) found teammate Bella Paradiso wide open in the paint for a bucket to cut the Falcons’ lead to 42-39 with three minutes left, but Frye-Williams, Marston and Herbaugh combined to make all but one of their free throws over Central’s final eight possessions.
Herbaugh cleaned up the only missed free throw of the period by grabbing an offensive rebound and proceeded to make two freebies of her own that pushed the lead to nine with 39 seconds left.
The Falcons were 16-for-18 from the free-throw line in the win.
“The key was we just had to stay focused on it,” Frye-Williams said of the Falcons’ ability to close out the game at the line. “We knew they were probably gonna foul us at the end, so we just had to concentrate on our foul shots and make them.”
Central’s defense has been its staple all season, and the Falcons were solid in that area against the Mustangs while swapping its usual 3-2 zone for man-to-man. The Mustangs made only 17 of 56 shots and turned the ball over 10 times.
“I got to thinking after one of the timeouts that we probably could match up with them man,” Bryan Scott said. “(Icabalceta) is tough, the point guard, she’s pretty tough and I’m proud of Olivia Wightman because I put her in there sometimes to guard her and she did a good job.”
Central returns to action against Rappahannock County on Friday hunting its second district win.
“I’m super proud of them,” Bryan Scott said. “I’m hoping it’s something we can build on because we’ve been up and down all year.”