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I-A GIRLS: Spring Valley caps turnaround with state title

Kayla Harris led Spring Valley in scoring during its one-loss regular season.

But the 5-foot-9-inch freshman didn’t need to score much in the Division I-A girls state championship game Saturday against Faith Lutheran. She did everything else.

Harris finished with eight points, eight rebounds and nine assists to help the Grizzlies win their first title with a 58-40 victory at Orleans Arena, one year after Spring Valley finished with a 1-24 record.

“Kayla was unstoppable,” Grizzlies coach Billy Hemberger said. “There is no one that can stop her in our division. Not next year, not the year after. If she stays hungry and the work ethic is there, which it is, this girl is going to play somewhere special.

“Everything that you possibly want to accomplish, we accomplished this year. I had breaking moments last year. It was brutal. Moments where I was like, ‘Do I even want to coach anymore?’ To have this turnaround is just floating on cloud nine.”

Spring Valley (30-1) came out hot, shooting 6 of 9 during the first quarter to take an 18-5 lead, with freshman Essence Booker scoring 10 points.

As good as she was offensively, Harris’ biggest contribution came on the defensive end, where she limited Faith Lutheran standout Haley Vinson, who averages 18.0 points a game, to eight points. Vinson was held without a field goal until the 4:44 mark of the third quarter.

“She wants (to guard) the big name,” Hemberger said of Harris. “Going back to that MVP thing, she feels like she was snubbed. Haley is a very good player, but Kayla can’t be stopped.”

The rest of the Faith Lutheran team didn’t fare much better. The Crusaders hit 5 of 27 field-goal attempts in the first half and trailed 29-15. Harris had seven assists in the half.

Faith Lutheran (23-7) finished 12 of 59 (20.3 percent) from the field and had 15 turnovers.

“Defense wins championships,” Hemberger said. “It’s a cliche, but that’s what won us our championship.”

Booker scored a game-high 22 points. Bria Hardin-Davidson added 12 points, all in the first half, for the Grizzlies, who were 22 of 46 (47.8 percent) from the field.

“We’ve been shooting terribly,” Hemberger said. “It was put in the paper that we would win if we shot north of 40 percent. We preached that to the girls. We finally got our break and knocked down some shots.”

Faith Lutheran’s Kim Munro and Morgan Hill each scored 10 points, and Hill grabbed nine rebounds.

Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at aferguson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson.

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