Quick start propels Mustangs past visiting Cougars

Bobby Asel and Payton Simmons shine in opening nail-biter

Carter Mackinnon, Staff Reporter

Boys basketball wins their season opener in a nail-biter against Manassas Park. Tonight, they hope for another win against Warren County. (Photo via Mary Asel on Twitter)

Manassas Park kept the game close for much of Tuesday’s boys basketball contest against rival George Mason, though the Mustangs always seemed to have an answer when the Cougars got a little too close.

When Manassas Park cut the deficit to two points at the end of the third quarter, the Mustangs closed out the game on a 12-10 run to remain unbeaten on the season and win 55-51. Manassas Park’s Payton Simmons (#2) would lead all scorers with 29 points. The win opened the Mustangs’ record to 1-0 after an 11 month absence of no basketball.

“We played hard and scraped out a win versus a really tough team. We need to cut down on turnovers and sloppy play but I’ll take an ugly gritty win any day of the week,” Mason’s coach Michael Gilroy said. 

“We were not perfect, but that is to be expected in the first game of the year. Executing in practice is one thing, but executing in a game is a lot harder. It’s impossible to match game speed and intensity in practice. We have a lot to work on, but we came ready to play and we willed ourselves to a win,” added Assistant Coach Nate Ogle.

Manassas Park drops to 3-2 with the loss, the Cougars stuck around till the end, and led 2-0 in the first quarter after Devin Chambers’ opening layup. Mason countered with an 12-0 run, sparked by a three pointer from Bobby Asel (#10) and two layups from Ben Yimaj (#20). The Mustangs would end the quarter leading 16-8.

Payton Simmons and Devin Chambers (#10) kept the Cougars in it in the second quarter, scoring 10 of 16 Warren County points to keep pace with the Mustangs and sent George Mason into halftime with a 28-24 lead. 

Manassas Park started to make things interesting in the third quarter when they scored on three straight possessions to pull within three points of Mason all coming from Payton Simmons. Mason ended the quarter leading 43-41.

Manassas Park had a chance to turn the game into a one point affair, but Cameron Dixon (#11) missed both of his free throw attempts as Mason would hold onto their 50-47 lead. Junior Mac Duross’s four consecutive free throws in the last minute pushed the Mustangs over the top, who won 55-51. 

“I told myself I was going to put all those previous mistakes behind me and try to put this game away for our team and our fans. Glad I could sink all of them and secure the win,” Duross said after the win.

Asel led George Mason with 18 points, Yimaj finished with 11 and Wyatt and Scott Trundle each had six points. Mason’s point guard Ryan Fletchall dished out seven assists to go along with his six points. 

Outside of Simmons, Manassas Park got little offensive production from his supporting cast as Devin Chambers (13 points) was the only other in double-figures. 

The Mustangs look to keep their undefeated season rolling when Warren County comes into Falls Church tonight at 6:00.

Warren County seeks its first win (0-4, 0-4), but the Wildcats start three Seniors headlined by guard Gabriel Davis (#10) who averaged 17.5 points, 3.7 assists, and 4.8 steals per game last season, and 3-year starters: Michael Kelly (#32) and Bryce Post (#44). Warren also welcomes back Logan DeHaven (#22) who started as a sophomore but did not play his junior season. 

Outside of the powerful senior class, the Wildcats also have junior Will Waller (#11) and sophomore Malachi Vinson-Proctor (#30) who look to contribute off the bench.

For a George Mason victory, the Mustangs need to stop Davis, if he gets hot early it will be a long night for the Mustangs.

Because VHSL and FCCPS rules reduce the capacity to family only attending live, follow the Mustangs online tonight on the live stream starting at 6:00 p.m.