By Robert Wilson
Thanks to junior guard Grace Maxey’s career scoring night, defending MAIS Overall Tournament champion Leake Academy’s season didn’t end at Brookhaven Academy Tuesday.
Maxey scored a career-high 19 points off the bench to lead Leake to a 55-45 victory over Brookhaven Academy in the first round of the MAIS Class 5A state tournament at Brookhaven.
Leake improved to 32-3 and bounced back from its 57-49 loss to Pillow Academy last weekend in the 5A North State championship game. Leake plays Central Hinds, the No. 1 team from the South, Friday at 1 p.m. in the semifinals at Brookhaven. Leake defeated Central Hinds 55-36 Nov. 18 at Leake in its only meeting this season. Brookhaven finished 33-5.
Maxey came into Tuesday’s game against Brookhaven averaging 4.2 points and had never scored more than 12. But with Brookhaven playing a smothering defense on Leake’s leading scorer, junior guard Miriam Prince, Maxey stepped up for her career night. She made five 3-pointers and two 2-pointers for her 19 points, nine points in the first half and 10 in the second. Maxey’s scoring was a pleasant sight for Leake coach Amanda Hatch.
“Brookhaven put a lot of pressure on Miriam and brought a lot of help,” Hatch said. “It looked like they chose to help off of one of our guards, which left Grace open, and she really shot the ball with confidence.”
Brookhaven limited Prince to only 5 points, 14.7 points below her average, and her second lowest point total of the season. Although Prince didn’t have a big scoring night, she had a career-high 10 assists.
“We wanted to keep Miriam from getting going and we did just that keeping her scoreless in the first half and just one total field goal all night,” Brookhaven coach Ron Kessler said. “The thing about Leake is that they all shoot the perimeter shot so well and their other players stepped up when Prince couldn’t get going. That’s a sign of a great team.”
Leake led 22-9 after one quarter, 32-23 at halftime and 42-36 after three quarters.
“We got off to a hot start, shooting the basketball and jumped out to an early 13-point lead,” Hatch said. “Then, Brookhaven really picked up their defense, making it hard for us to get a good look. (Lillie) Gates really hurt us in the second quarter, and we let a couple of their shooters loose in the second half, which led them back into the game. But down the stretch, we were able to hit a couple of shots and make some free throws to seal it. I thought we really focused and executed our game plan well. I’m so proud of our posts shutting down Gates in the second half and of Miriam for holding (Anne Brantley) Warren to one point, and handling lots of pressure all night. Grace, Emeri (Warren), Red (Morgan Freeny) and KK (Allen Kaye Wilcox) all came up with big 3s for us.”
Leake, which made 11 free throws in the fourth quarter, had Warren with 12 points (all in the first quarter) and Freeny with 11 points (7 of 9 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter).
Brookhaven was led by Gates with 15 points and Abby Grace Richardson with 12 points.
“We asked our kids to give everything they had tonight, and they did just that,” Kessler said. “I am super proud of their efforts tonight and all season long.”