The clock finally struck midnight on the Grain Valley High School girls basketball team’s dream season.
Lincoln Prep used solid inside play and the brilliance of guard Ajanee Bradley to claim a 63-45 Class 4 state quarterfinal win Saturday evening at Blue Springs South High School.
Despite getting 24 points from freshman phenom Grace Slaughter, the Eagles simply couldn’t match the physical or offensive presence of the Tigers.
"That is a very good, well-coached basketball team," Eagles coach Randy Draper said after his team – which graduates just two seniors – wrapped up a 20-8 campaign.
"I am so proud of what this team has done this season. We won 11 games last year and had just two starters back – (junior) Malia (Gutierrez) and (senior) Kaylee (Hill) – and I just told the kids, we’re just the third team in school history to go this far."
And the second in the past four years, as Hill played on a quarterfinal team as a sophomore and a senior.
"With about a minute left in the game, I just lost it emotionally," said Hill, who finished with 10 points. "Coach called a time out, and gave me a big hug, and that just made it worse. I didn’t want this season to end."
Neither did gritty, 5-foot-4 senior center Savannah Scott, who played several minutes when starter Ella Clyman got in early foul trouble.
Scott gave up eight inches and 40-some pounds to Tigers center Jasia Nicholson, who scored seven points.
"She's an animal," assistant coach Pete Carpino said of Scott, as she was doing a postgame interview.
Scott managed to smile as tears streamed down her face.
"I just wanted to give it all I had tonight, especially since it was my last game," said Scott, who spent most of the game battling for boards in the paint. "I am so proud to have been a part of this team, to have played for Coach (Randy) Draper and to have played with all these great girls."
Lincoln Prep led 14-7 after one period, 30-16 at halftime and saw a Bradley 3-pointer at 6:50 of the third quarter double the score at 42-22.
"There were a lot of times we got down, but we always got right back up, and never gave up," Draper said. "And that’s what I like to see. Play hard, whether you’re winning or losing. And we did that tonight."
Slaughter, who scored 600-plus points this season, scored 11 of her 24 points in the fourth quarter and was 12 of 14 from the line.
"I can’t wait to get back in the gym and start working for next season," Slaughter said. "I love my girls, and hate to think that I won’t be playing with Keely or Savannah next season, but we’re all going to work hard and be ready next season."
Bradley finished with 29 points and Chorus Davis added 14.
TCU commit Amari Conn hurt her left foot late in the second quarter and did not return to action. She finished with four points.
Lincoln Prep learned Monday it would not be able to play in the Class 4 state final four in Springfield after the Missouri State High School Activities Association canceled the Class 4-5 state basketball championships.