AATL fends off Grandview Prep to Gain Finals
Junior Imani Thomas had 23 points and 15 rebounds and sophomore Audra Leipold added 20 points to help Land O’ Lakes Academy at the Lakes reach the Class 2A state final with Tuesday’s 65-55 victory over Boca Raton Grandview Prep.
But it was senior Janise Cassanello who scored what proved to be the game-winning basket.
Grandview Prep had come back from an 11-point deficit to tie the game, 55-55, with three minutes remaining. Cassanello then found herself unguarded on the edge of the lane and, for lack of a better option, shot the ball.
“I looked for Imani but she wasn’t open,” Cassanello said.
The shot went in for Cassanello’s only basket of the game, giving the Wildcats (26-3) a 57-55 lead. Grandview (16-14) never scored again.
Academy at the Lakes will play Tallahassee FAMU tonight at 8 for the championship.
Kristin Rampersad scored 23 points for the Pride, who erased leads in each half but never led by more than one point.
“She still had 23, but if I don’t try to limit her she probably gets 40,” said Academy of the Lakes coach Karim Nohra. “She’s a darned good player and we knew that coming in. We tried to make the other girls beat us as much as possible, and for the most part they didn’t.”
The Wildcats came out in an effective half-court press, but Rampersad hit two 3-pointers on an 11-2 run that left the Pride with a 30-29 lead late in the first half.
But Thomas and Leipold took over, regaining control for the Wildcats until Leipold had to sit down with four fouls early in the fourth quarter.
Getting several layups off their press and from Thomas’ rebounds, the Wildcats shot 52 percent for the game and had a 42-32 rebounding advantage.
“I really wanted to take my team and my two seniors to the next level,” said Thomas, who shot 11-for-14. “So of course I knew I had to step up.”