George Mason boys' basketball team ends season with Virginia state semifinal loss to James River.

By James Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2011; 11:51 PM

RICHMOND - The George Mason boys' basketball team's best season in a decade came to an end Thursday night in the Virginia A Division 2 state semifinals, a 67-31 loss to defending champion James River that saw the Mustangs' up-tempo offense stifled.

George Mason (22-6), which entered averaging more than 70 points per game and is predicated on pace, ball control and dead-eye shooting, was out of sync almost all night at VCU's Siegel Center.

Except for a three-minute stretch late in the first quarter, James River easily controlled the game. After missing its first five shots, many of them short jumpers, and falling behind 9-0, George Mason used a 7-1 run fueled by junior point guard Noel Obusan's fastbreak layup and three-pointer.

But quickly, James River (23-6) reasserted itself with crisper passing and sharper shooting. By halftime, James River had built a 37-18 lead thanks to 15-of-30 shooting. George Mason, which won the Region B title and was playing in its first state tournament since 2001, made only five of its 22 first-half shots.The Mustangs shot just over 20 percent for the game.

Said Coach Chris Capannola: "We couldn't throw the ball into the ocean. . . . It's been three months since we've shot the ball like that."

Obusan led George Mason with seven points. Senior Brandon Alexander and junior Jeremy Stewert each added six.

George Mason players said they struggled with their opponent's zone defense, which held the Mustangs to just 1 of 14 from three-point range. The lack of an inside game and the unfamiliar venue also had George Mason in a funk.

"Nerves were definitely a part of it," Stewart said. "I think these guys were really lanky and long and stuff. I was trying to get my shot off quick and that was my downfall."

James River's Chris Ware lead all scorers with 18 points.


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