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Title Academy: Undefeated Eagles take home first championship

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For the Academy of American Studies, a school of less than 600 students tucked into a cranny of Long Island City, PSAL titles aren't just rare. They don't happen.Until now.Led by freshman point guard Diani Mason's 14 points and six assists, the top-seeded Eagles beat No. 3 Richard Green HS of Teaching, 45-34, to win the PSAL Class B girls' basketball championship Saturday afternoon at St. Francis College in Brooklyn. It was the Academy of American Studies' first-ever city championship in any sport."It's a dream come true," said Faya, who coached the Eagles girls' volleyball team to the city championship match in 2001, which was, at that point, the school's only title appearance. "I'm not exactly sure how to explain it. I could live 100 years and coach for 90 and never have another season like this again."The Eagles (31-0) finished their PSAL season undefeated, but their year is hardly over. They will get a bye into the state Federation Class B championship game and meet either the Fieldston School or Briarcliffe Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Glens Falls Civic Center.Gutierrez earned the MVP award against Green by scoring 12 points and grabbing six rebounds. The 5-foot-10 forward did it all for American Studies this season. She played almost every position on the court and returned in the second half from an ankle injury in warm-ups to lead the Eagles to a second-round win against Queens HS of Teaching.James had 14 rebounds Saturday and Mason got to the basket at will, as usual. But all were quicker to credit Faya, for their success."He's just amazing," Gutierrez said. "He's our inspiration."Faya was the one who found Mason on a playground near the school getting the better of boys before the season. She was supposed to go to Bishop Loughlin. Instead, she ended up at American Studies, because her mother wanted an exemplary academic experience. Trying out for the basketball team never even crossed her mind."Actually, I thought we were gonna lose every game," Mason said. "I had never heard of (the school) in my life."Reach Associate Sports Editor Marc Raimondi by e-mail at mraimondi@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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