Explosive third quarter propels girls basketball to state title

Mustangs clinch fifth state title in program history to cap off perfect season

Ethan Siebel and Carter Mackinnon

team poses for photo
Mason girls basketball poses with the state championship trophy. The state title was the Lady Mustangs’ fifth in school history. “To have [the season] end like this is a dream come true, to be honest,” head coach Chris Carrico said.
(Photo courtesy of @gmladymustangs)

After a slow start during the VHSL Class 3 state championship game on Saturday, Mason’s varsity girls basketball team (15-0) recovered by scoring 37 points in the second and third quarters to defeat Spotswood (10-1), 65-49.

The Spotswood Trailblazers opened the night with a 9-2 run in the opening minutes, led by senior guard Abby Branner’s 7 points early. Mason responded with an 8-0 run of their own, and the teams were knotted up at 12 at the end of the first quarter. 

“We got off to a slow start,” Mason sophomore guard Peyton Jones said. “Even though our shots weren’t dropping, everyone played strong defense and that led to turnovers.”

Mason forward Elizabeth Creed and Spotswood guard Rebekah Weaver exchanged three-point baskets in the opening possessions of the second quarter. Late in the second quarter Spotswood’s Branner took a hard foul, sending her to the free throw line where she made both shots. Spotswood had a 27-24 lead with 1:32 remaining in the second quarter. 

The rest of the night belonged to the Mustangs. Mason closed out the half on a 7-0 run, taking a 31-27 lead into the half. Spotswood never regained the lead.

“I didn’t think our defense in the first half was that great and to have still have a lead at half was great,” Mason head coach Chris Carrico said.

“[At halftime] Coach told us to take a breather and keep playing our game, the game we have played all year,” junior guard Bella Paradiso said.

The Mustangs followed Carrico’s advice over the final two quarters. The Mustangs put on a dominant offensive display in the third quarter, a stark contrast to their first half performance.

The Mustangs scored 18 points in the third quarter, led by Creed’s 8. They recovered 8 offensive rebounds and forced 4 turnovers. On the other hand, the Trailblazers shot just 2-11 with their only third quarter baskets from Abby Branner. Mason led 49-33 with one quarter left to play.

“It seemed like they just fed off the negatives for us,” Spotswood head coach Chris Dodson said. “When we turned the ball over or missed a shot, they found a way to capitalize. They handled our pressure when we pressured them. I thought we were doing great in our half-court [man-to-man] defense but once we struggled offensively, they just kind of took over a bit.”

The Mustangs closed out the game with ease and prevailed victorious 65-49. The Mustangs won their fifth girls basketball state championship in program history.

Creed led Mason with 24 points, and 7 rebounds. Paradiso and Jones both finished with 12 points. Megan Tremblay provided a spark off the bench scoring 11 points.

The Trailblazers were led by Abby Branner who finished with 27 points, 2 steals and 2 blocks in her final game as a Trailblazer. Spotswood guard Rebekah Weaver scored 12 points, all from three point range.

Last year the Mustangs lost in the state quarterfinal to Booker T. Washington, who went on to lose in the Class 3 state semifinals. Creed explained the experience from last year has helped this year’s squad.

“This year, we were able to build upon what we had already created last year and that definitely helped us win big this year,” she said. “The work for our team started back in August when we couldn’t even be inside a gym because of COVID and we really just put in so much hard work to get here. We also used the loss from last year as motivation. It was so fulfilling to be able to overcome so much adversity and come out on top.”

Carrico echoed the same sentiment when asked to reflect on the end of the season.

“We were nervous that this season wouldn’t happen,” Carrico said. “To have it end like this is a dream come true, to be honest.”