The last time the boys and girl’s varsity basketball teams from stepped onto the hardwood, both teams suffered losses in the semifinals of the Virginia High School League’s state tournament.
The girls, who were two-time defending state champions at the time, and the boys .
Players and coaches will use last season’s ending as fuel for a better ending this season.
“The emotions for me are so there,” said junior Stephanie Cheney. “I remember everything from that day.”
The Mustangs boys and girl’s basketball teams kicked off the 2011-12 season Monday holding tryouts and practices for varsity and junior varsity players. Both varsity teams advanced to the VHSL tournament’s semifinals, a first in 10-years for the boys and the fourth consecutive year for the girls. In the last four seasons, the girls have won two state championships. The girls start this season at home Dec. 1 against Broad Run and the boy’s tipoff the season the same day at Loudoun County.
Cheney, 2011 Bull Run District Player of the Year, is looking forward to intense practices this season. Coming off a successful AAU campaign that has garnered her attention from several Division-I college programs, Cheney said she plans to transfer that success to this season. Cheney, who is 89-points away from becoming Mason’s all-time scoring leader (1,185, set by Kate Jackson in 1999), has her eyes set on achieving the ultimate pinnacle in team sports.
“I’d rather win a championship with my team than to win state player of the year as an individual,” Cheney said.
Losing in big games is something Leah Roth isn’t used to. Throughout her high school career, Roth has won three cross country championships, three soccer championships and two basketball championships. The senior guard, in her fourth year on the varsity basketball team, was able escape the semifinals loss because soccer started shortly after. Losing in the semifinals this year is not an option for Roth.
“That was the first time I lost any final,” Roth said. “Whatever mistakes we made last year, we’ll be more prepared this year.”
Between drills Monday inside the gymnasium at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School, LaBryan Thomas, head coach of the girl’s varsity team, said he is excited about the leadership amongst his team. He said Roth, the most decorated athlete to come through Mason, is the leader of the team. Having a team of leaders, Thomas said he doesn’t have to get his team up to play.
“I don’t have to say anything,” Thomas said. “They’re hungry and they want to win.”
Head Boy’s Varsity Basketball Coach Chris Capannola is experiencing the same plethora of leaders with his team.
Coming off their first trip to the state tournament’s semifinals in about a decade, Capannola said his team is motivated and ready to get the season going. With four starters returning, Capannola said he doesn’t have to say much to his core group that includes 2011 first-team All-Bull Run players Nate Ogle and Jeremy Stewart and second team All-Bull Run performers Phillippe Griffiths and Noel Obusan.
“With this group there’s not much to say to motivate them,” Capannola said. “I think they want to duplicate last year if not do more on their own.”
Capannola said this year’s team has to play tough defense and find someone to pick up the rebounding big man Brandon Alexander did last season. He said his four returning starters, all seniors, love to compete.
“We have to play with the intensity we had last year,” Capannola said. “Our defense is fine but we don’t have anyone over 6’2”.”
Griffiths, Ogle and Obusan said they didn’t dwell on last season’s semifinals loss; instead they worked harder perfecting their games on the hardwood and in the weight room.
“The way last season ended, I didn’t really take many days off,” Griffiths said. “I worked harder than I ever had.”
A second year varsity player, Obusan said he took the loss in the semifinals very hard and doesn’t want to experience that again. Being his last year at the school, the senior guard said he wants to take every moment serious.
“I just want to go one game at a time but I want to win states,” Obusan said.
Boy’s Varsity Quick Look
Head Coach: Chris Capannola
Record Last Season: 22-6
Key Players Lost: Brandon Alexander
Key New Additions: None
2011-2012 Schedule: Click Here
Girl’s Varsity Quick Look
Head Coach: LaBryan Thomas
Record Last Season: 26-3
Key Players Lost: None
Key New Additions: Katie Goodwin
2011-2012 Schedule: Click Here