RICHMOND — In preparation to handle Floyd County’s pressure defense, George Mason senior Stephanie Cheney and her teammates played nine-on-five in practice to try to simulate the lunging arms and shifty legs they might encounter at the Siegel Center in the Virginia A Division 2 semifinal Friday morning.
The problem was, the game also felt like nine-on-five. George Mason committed a season-high 33 turnovers in falling, 78-67, and will not get to defend its 2012 state title in the championship Saturday afternoon. No Northern Virginia boys’ or girls’ team reached a state final this season.
“Some of our unforced turnovers, we were just so excited to get the ball past halfcourt,” Cheney said. “You’re dealing with three or four people on you every single time you caught the ball. . . . Sometimes it seemed like they were everywhere.”
“We were able to beat it sometimes, but just the fact that it’s so consistent almost no matter who they have in the game is very tiring by the end,” junior guard Jaya Chavern said. “Mentally more than physically.”
Even so, George Mason led 50-48 early in the fourth quarter before the Mustangs started to break down during a 12-1 run for the Buffaloes, including eight unanswered points during a blurry 49-second span.
A three-pointer by George Mason sophomore guard Ava Roth made it 65-60 when the Mustangs (25-6) called their final timeout with 2:57 left.
Roanoke area school Floyd County (27-2), which committed 15 fewer turnovers, closed the win by making 13 of 16 free throws.
George Mason, making its sixth consecutive state semifinal appearance with three titles in four years, shot 48.8 percent from the floor. But because of all the mistakes, the Mustangs attempted only 41 shots to 68 for the Buffaloes.
Cheney, the only returning starter off the state champion team from a year ago, collected 33 points and 16 rebounds and sophomore forward Katie Goodwin had 20 points and eight rebounds. Between them, they were 16 of 26 from the floor and 21 of 25 from the line.
“No one’s going to feel sorry for us,” Thomas said. “Because we’ve been here so many times. But this one hurts.”