Grace Christian Academy stunned top-ranked Agape Christian Academy, 16-11, in the girls title game in the 2018-2019 Commonwealth Coalition of Private Schools Association Middle School Basketball League yesterday at the Koblerville Gymnasium.
The Lady Eagles entered the finals as underdogs after losing twice to the Lady Torchbearers in the regular season, while the latter were undefeated heading into the playoffs.
Then in their third meeting, GCA caught Agape off guard, limiting the No. 1 seed team to one point in the first quarter to control the game. The Lady Eagles’ defense then held the Lady Torchbearers scoreless in the third period to boost their title bid.
On offense, Soleil Lamar led GCA, as she scored half of their total points.
“We kept a positive mindset and that helped us a lot. Our coaches told us to always think of the good things that can happen if we stay positive,” said Lamar, as they made it to the finals despite a dismal 2-4 record in the regular season and after pulling off an upset over Mt. Carmel School.
“We had [previously] lost to Mount Carmel and Agape, and it was through our constant practices and teamwork that we were able to win against these tough teams,” said Katriel Saures, who chipped 5 markers in the title victory.
Saures and Lamar made one field goal apiece in the third quarter, turning an 11-7 lead to a 15-7 cushion.
The Lady Torchbearers attempted to pull together one last push to foil GCA’s upset bid, as Mei Ou and Jenny Lin combined for 4 points. However, their efforts to bring Agape back into contention ultimately fell short and GCA was awarded the championship trophy in its first appearance in the middle school competition since 2014.
Lamar, besides hoisting the championship trophy, received the Finals MVP award.
“I am so happy and excited to have been able to contribute to the win,” Lamar said. “I am thankful to all my teammates for their contributions, which were no less important than mine.”
The shooting guard scored 4 points in the first half, while Azriel Fatialofa tallied 3 markers, as they outgunned Although Lin and Ou and lifted GCA to a 4-point lead at the break. The Lady Eagles then did a great job at neutralizing Agape’s gunners and controlling the boards to keep their lead in the second half and complete the upset.
Coach Genesis Prieto, after their title conquest, has all praises to his players, acknowledging the big improvement the Lady Eagles have shown since Day 1 of their practice.
“The girls really worked hard, practiced hard, and really learned how to play basketball. We were encouraging them to play and it is nice to hear that they enjoy playing basketball. It was really a team effort,” said Prieto, who drew help from Frank Dalusong in handling the champion squad.
GCA 16—Lamar 8, Saures 5, Fatialofa 3.
Agape 11—Lin 6, Ou 5
Scoring by quarters: 4-1, 11-7, 15-7, 16-11