Woodward Academy girls lose in State Champions Invitational semifinals

Woodward Academy’s Sydney Bowles scored a game-high 24 points, but the War Eagles’ season came to an end with an 81-57 loss to Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) in the girls semifinals of the State Champions Invitational on Friday at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa.

Lake Highland Prep (26-4) handed Woodward Academy (29-3) two of its three losses this season. The Highlanders won 74-70 when the teams met on Jan. 8. Woodward Academy had since won 18 consecutive games, including a 72-44 victory against Forest Park in the state finals for its second consecutive Class 5A title.

Woodward Academy lost only one game this season against a Georgia opponent, 54-50 against Jackson-Atlanta on Nov. 26 in the third game of the regular season. The War Eagles avenged that loss with a 84-58 victory in the state quarterfinals.

Bowles added nine rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal in her final high school game. The AJC’s all-classification player of the year averaged 20.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 3.0 steals this season, leading the War Eagles in each category, and was named Miss Georgia Basketball by the Atlanta Tipoff Club and the Gatorade Georgia Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

She signed with Georgia but remains undecided on her college future after Lady Bulldogs coach Joni Taylor left Athens to take the job at Texas A&M.

Sara Lewis added 13 points for Woodward Academy. She and Bowles combined to score the War Eagles’ first 22 points.

The State Champions Invitational, in its first season, brings together four boys teams and four girls teams that are National Federation of State High School Associations members and won sanctioned championships in their states. The championship games will be played Saturday, with the Lake Highland girls meeting Sidwell Friends (D.C.) at 10 a.m. on ESPNU, and the Auburn (Wash.) boys taking on Calvary Christian (Fla.) at noon on ESPN2.

Woodward Academy took its only lead on a layup by Bowles that made it 14-12 with 11 seconds remaining in the first quarter, but Lake Highland scored at the buzzer for a 14-14 tie at the end of the period.

Lake Highland took control with a 15-3 run to open the second quarter that built a 29-17 lead. Woodward Academy closed the gap to 29-24 on a basket inside by MacKenzie Moring, but that was as close as the War Eagles would get the rest of the way.

Lake Highland held a 55-46 lead entering the fourth quarter and pulled away by outscoring the War Eagles 26-11 over the final eight minutes.

Lake Highland had only seven players available, because of injuries, but all of them scored and five were in double figures. Eleecia Carter led the way with 20 points, followed by Lexi Blue with 17, Camila De Pool Masionet with 12 and Bri Rivera with 11. Nyla Harris, a four-star recruit who has signed with Louisville, finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds.

Woodward Academy - 14-17-15-11 - 57

Lake Highland Prep - 14-25-16-26 - 81

Woodward Academy (57)

Sydney Bowles 24, Sara Lewis 13, MacKenzie Moring 6, Kennedie Mosley 2, Anna Wylder 6, Kameron Herring 2, Delaney Cooper 2, Rhian Richardson 2, Zoe Scott, Miranda Merchant, Tayonna Martin, Kayla Whitner, Keely Chapman.

Lake Highland Prep (81)

Eleecia Carter 20, Camila De Pool Masionet 12, Lexi Blue 17, Sierra Godbolt 9, Nyla Harris 10, Bri Rivera 11, Frances Liffey 2.