J.J. Kelly 81,

James Monroe 37

The James Monroe girls' basketball team lost only one game this season as it advanced to its first state championship appearance. Unfortunately, the title match today was against J.J. Kelly, which was undefeated -- and still is.

By the time James Monroe produced one of its trademark second-half runs, the Virginia Group A championship game was already decided. Region D champion Kelly thoroughly dominated the first half, zooming to a 39-point halftime advantage and coasted to an 81-37 victory at the Salem Civic Center.

Susan Stone (nine points) and Sherri Washington (six) attempted to rally James Monroe (27-2) in the third quarter. But the Indians (30-0), who started the game with a 22-0 run, were never really threatened. The early onslaught was no aberration; Kelly also started its quarterfinal victory over George Wythe with a 22-0 run.

"They were the best team we've seen, and they gave it to us pretty good," said James Monroe Coach Julian Bumbrey, whose team had won 10 straight games.

James Monroe had held opposing teams to an average of 30.3 points per game in the regular season. Kelly had won its 22 regular season games by an average of more than 39 points.

Led by Virginia Commonwealth-bound twins Rachel (18 points) and Sarah Helton (eight points, 11 rebounds), the Indians rattled James Monroe with their press, intercepting passes in the back court, flitting through the Yellow Jackets' defense and controlling the inside. They forced 16 first-half turnovers.

"They had a lot of endurance, and they kept it up all game," said Lisa Tracy (nine points), the only senior on the James Monroe roster.

Kelly, which was making its third state final appearance in five years, was significantly more experienced, with four senior starters. The Indians were also taller, with a combined seven-inch height advantage among starters. But Region A champion James Monroe, which started three sophomores and got major minutes from freshman Washington, was already making plans to build on this year's experience.

"We surpassed all expectations," Bumbrey said. "We're looking forward to being back next season . . . . Hopefully, they'll stay hungry for the future."

Today's Group A and AA championship games marked the end of fall girls' basketball in Virginia. After 27 years of playing fall tournaments -- including the last 17 at the Salem Civic Center -- the smaller classifications will join AAA schools in playing winter basketball next season.

In today's first game, Blacksburg won its record fifth AA state championship, defeating Lee-Staunton, 56-54.

Yellow Jackets' Tameka Christopher moves in for a layup, but James Monroe was otherwise stuffed on offense in its first title appearance.