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George Mason Girls Top Floyd County, 53-46, to Win Virginia A Division 2 Title

The George Mason Mustangs pour onto the Siegel Center floor to celebrate their championship.
The George Mason Mustangs pour onto the Siegel Center floor to celebrate their championship. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
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By Matthew Stanmyre
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, March 15, 2009

RICHMOND, March 14 -- Midway through the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon, George Mason guard Chantal Thomas reached in and cleanly stole the ball from Floyd County standout Brittany Avancini. Thomas turned and streaked down the court with Avancini scrambling after her, then laid it into the basket to give George Mason a double-digit lead that would not be seriously threatened.

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Minutes later, as the Mustangs hugged at midcourt and celebrated their 53-46 victory over Floyd County in the Virginia A Division 2 championship at Siegel Center, the scene between Thomas and Avancini had ultimately provided a glimpse at how far George Mason had come in just one year.

Twelve months earlier, the Mustangs were thumped by Floyd County (26-4) in the state semifinals on the same court, a game in which the Liberty-bound Avancini torched George Mason for 31 points. In the time since then, the Mustangs had graduated eight players and incorporated two freshmen into the starting lineup, while the Buffaloes returned four starters to their senior-laden team.

The odds were in Floyd County's favor for an outcome similar to a year ago, but the Mustangs were thorough and efficient in beating the Buffaloes and bringing George Mason (24-6) its first state championship since 1998.

"This team has worked hard all year long," George Mason Coach LaBryan Thomas said. "It pays off, as you can see."

George Mason's players spent the offseason staying late after school for strength and speed training, workouts that helped unite the team. The players also kept the loss to Floyd County fresh in their minds for added motivation.

The Mustangs hounded Avancini, who missed all seven of her shots in the second half and finished with 19 points on 5-of-19 shooting. In control from the second quarter on, the Mustangs led 43-33 entering the fourth, then built their lead to 49-35 after Thomas's steal and score with 4 minutes 5 seconds to play.

"Our whole goal was to make it back" to the state semifinals, LaBryan Thomas said. "We met that goal, but we weren't satisfied."

George Mason freshman Bria Platenburg scored a team-high 14 points and Nicole Mitchell added 13 and 15 rebounds.

Once the final buzzer sounded, George Mason's players poured onto the court and screamed and shouted, while the team's five coaches locked in a group hug just in front of their bench. Last year's teary loss to Floyd County was already a distant memory.

George Mason 53, Floyd County 46 In Control: George Mason took its first lead of the game at 15-13 with 5 minutes 25 seconds left in the second quarter, and the Mustangs never trailed from there. Staying Power: Floyd County has reached the state tournament five years in a row. The Buffaloes were state runners-up three years ago before winning the title last season.

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