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Monroe Girls Gain Valuable Lessons from Lone Loss Heading into States

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William Monroe has a record of 23-1 William Monroe has a record of 23-1
STANARDSVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

The William Monroe High School girls basketball team is heading into its first state tournament in three decades coming off its first loss of the season.

Monroe won its first 23 games this season, including all 21 in the regular season before losing 48-46 to Culpeper in the 3B region finals.

Monroe junior Sam Brunelle is averaging 31 points and 16 rebounds per game this season.   She's proving why she's the top college prospect for the class of 2019.

Friday night in the final seconds of Monroe's lone loss this season, Brunelle unselfishly passed out of a double team to an open teammate.

Culpeper came up with a big block as time expired and Monroe tasted defeat for the first time this season.

"Being an English major I call it her tragic flaw, her unselfishness, because at some point she is unselfish to a fault," says Monroe coach Jess Stafford.  "We told her take the shot, you've earned this moment.  That's your moment, but she's still learning, I think a lot of people forget she's a 16-year old kid, and she had never been in that position before, ever."

"I probably could have taken the shot, it probably wouldn't have been a very pretty one, " says Brunelle.  "Who knows you might have gotten fouled, you might not have, so I might do that (in the future) if it comes down to that in the end."

The Dragons are younger and faster this season with no seniors and five freshmen.

"I've had so many passes that have gone through and they've (the freshmen) scored the layup," says Brunelle.  "I definitely trust them, in the beginning of the season they had to gain a lot of confidence and that was partly me in having to believe in them and trust that they will get better as the season goes on."

"Sam is someone I always looked up to when I've worked with coach for a while and it's really cool to be here now," says Monroe freshman Hailey Morris, who is the team's second-leading scorer averaging 9 points per game.  "I wasn't expecting to come in and go undefeated, a lot of it is we just focused on the little things."

Up next for Monroe, a showdown with Hopewell in Petersburg in the state quarterfinals.   Brunelle played AAU ball with two players on Hopewell's team, Imani Edmonds and Messiah Hunter.

"It's going to be a competitive reunion," says Brunelle.  "It'll be good to see them and hopefully we can get the win, but we're just going to play our game and believe in ourselves."