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Prep Girls Basketball Playoffs: Knights fall in semis

APPLE VALLEY • The dream season for the Academy for Academic Excellence girls basketball team is over.

The Knights’ championship hopes came to an end in the semifinals with a 52-27 loss to Mesa Grande Academy in the CIF-Southern Section Division 5A playoffs Saturday night. The No. 1-seeded Cardinals advanced to the championship game on Wednesday against AGBU.

After reaching the semifinals for the first time in school history by beating the California School for the Deaf, AAE (19-6) entered the game averaging 41.3 points per game but was halted by Mesa Grande’s (26-3) stingy defense, which allowed a total of just 34 points in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

But the Cardinals weren’t overlooking the Knights before the game.

“We’re not taking them lightly,” Mesa Grande coach Bob Walker said during pregame warm-ups. “We’ve still got to come out and execute. They are a good team and this is a big game for us.”

The game swung in the Cardinals’ favor from the start with a 8-0 run, then forward Madison Price scored six points in Mesa Grande’s 10-2 run to start the second quarter.

With the score 20-8, Nikki Gruver found a wide-open Carolina Phillips for a three-point play to get AAE within nine points. That was the closest they would get for the remainder of the game.

Mesa Grande put the game away in the third quarter, scoring 19 points — including 12 by Price — to take a 46-22 lead.

Walker said Price played the game with a heavy heart after her family suffered a loss Saturday.

The sophomore ended the game with 20 points, 13 rebounds, four steals, two assists and two blocks. Team co-captain Michaela Garcia chipped in 16 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

AAE coach Ashley Simpson was pleased with her team’s performance against the powerhouse Cardinals.

“I feel like if we didn’t win, this was the best way to go out,” Simpson said. “To be proud of every minute that they were on the court and if they played as hard as they could, there is nothing for me as a coach to be disappointed in.”

The Knights are a young team — Simpson cited freshman Carolina Phillips as a key contributor for the future. Junior Melissa Owour will return next season also.

Phillips led AAE with 12 points and added two rebounds and a steal. Owour chipped in four points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

“I think we’re going to improve,” Phillips said. “We’re going to get better and stronger and hopefully get some championships.”

MESA GRANDE ACADEMY (52)
Price 20, Garcia 16, Grekov 6, Tohm 6, Bosler 4.
AAE (27)
Phillips 12, Perea 5, Owour 4, Gruver 2, Sutton 2, Holbrook 2.

MGA    10    17    19    6    —    52
AAE    6    8    8    5    —    27

3-point field goals — Mesa Grande Academy 5 (Grekov 2, Garcia 2, Tohm); Academy for Academic Excellence none. Fouled out — none.


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