A purple bouquet of flowers was concealed behind the Forest Park bench before Saturday’s game against Gwynn Park, and the Bruins’ coaching staff secretly planned to give the gift away during the game to Breyana Mason, who needed 19 points to reach 1,500 for her career.
The awkward moment for Mason came early in the third quarter on a put-back layup, on which she was also fouled. After receiving the flowers and a standing ovation, she hurried to the free throw line and hit the shot to tie the score at 35. And Forest Park never looked back.
The Virginia-bound Mason scored 36 points and added eight rebounds as Forest Park held off No. 14 Gwynn Park, 70-63, in the Tina Thompson She Got Game Classic at Bishop McNamara High School.
“It was kind of awkward. But it was a really great feeling and I’m just thankful that my coaches thought of that,” Mason said of her milestone. “I always want to come out aggressive and attack.”
That has been the signature of Mason’s standout high school career, and Saturday was no exception. Forest Park (5-2) trailed the entire first half, including 35-32 at halftime, but Mason scored 19 points in the second half and the Bruins were able to weather Gwynn Park’s efficient fast-break offensive style in the fourth quarter. The Yellow Jackets (3-1) received 18 points from Takayla Ellis and 21 from Crystal Strother, but star guard Genesis Lucas (23.0 points per game) was held to two points.
“Honestly, I think it was fatigue,” Gwynn Park Coach Mike Strother said of his team fading down the stretch. “I think we are a better team than what we showed today, by far. Not taking anything away from Forest Park.”
After Gwynn Park took a 59-53 lead on an Ellis jumper in the middle of the fourth quarter, Forest Park responded with a 17-4 run to close out the win. Mason scored 10 points in that stretch, and Annalea Roeske hit a crucial three-pointer that broke a 63-63 tie with a little more than a minute remaining. The shot had come after Mason penetrated and swung the ball around the perimeter.
“I said to [Mason] privately, I’ve never seen a player score that many points, but be so unselfish,” Forest Park Coach Rebecca Tillett said. “I mean, you could see it in that game. How many times she gives the ball up, but is still able to put up those type of numbers. Just speaks to how special she is.”