Antelope Valley girls basketball runs past St. Pius X-St. Matthias in Division 5A championship game

Ziyah Moss #23 of Antelope Valley celebrates with her team after defeating St. Pius X-Matthias Academy 71-44 to win a CIF-SS Division 5A girls basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Ariana Soil #11 of Antelope Valley reacts after defeating St. Pius X-Matthias Academy 71-44 to win a CIF-SS Division 5A girls basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Ariana Soil, bottom, of Antelope Valley celebrates after as Maya Torres #23 of St. Pius X-Matthias Academy walks past after defeating St. Pius X-Matthias Academy 71-44 to win a CIF-SS Division 5A girls basketball championship game in the Felix Event center on the campus of Azusa Pacific University in Azusa on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

The Antelope Valley girls basketball team celebrates their big victory against St. Pius X in the CIF-SS Division 5A championship on Friday, Feb. 23 at Azusa Pacific University. (Photo by: John W. Davis, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

St. Pius X-St. Matthias girls basketball players Stephanie Zesati and Nathaly Fernandez accept a CIF-SS Division 5A finalists plaque after the team’s 71-44 loss against Antelope Valley at Azusa Pacific University on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024.

St. Pius X-St. Matthias girls basketball players Stephanie Zesati and Nathaly Fernandez accept a CIF-SS Division 5A finalists plaque after the team’s 71-44 loss against Antelope Valley at Azusa Pacific University on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024.

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AZUSA —  The Antelope Valley girls basketball team used a strong first half to secure a 71-44 win against St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy in the CIF-Southern Section Division 5A championship game at Azusa Pacific University on Friday afternoon.

Antelope Valley junior guard Ariana Soil had a game-high 26 points, seven assists, six rebounds and five steals. Junior forward Niya Price finished with 25 points, nine rebounds, and five blocked shots.

“These two young ladies are some of the hardest working kids around… they put the extra work in to give them the opportunity to shine in a moment like this,” Antelope Valley coach Deon Price said.

The Antelopes (16-6) led 32-8 at halftime. Price had 11 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in the first half.

“Our energy helped us through the game,” Price added. “We just had the mentality of we came too far to lose. We made it this far so why not finish the job so that gave us motivation and an extra push going into the half and throughout the game.”

St. Pius X-St. Matthias (19-12) was led by sophomore center Stephanie Zesati, who scored 12 of her team-high 13 points in the second half. Freshman guard Evelyn Martinez added 11 points.

“I’m not disappointed,” Zesati said. “We came very far in this playoff season. We haven’t been to the playoffs since 2018 so I’m not disappointed in my team at all. We shocked a lot of people. We kept fighting but we dug a hole too deep and couldn’t get out.”

Antelope Valley began the game on a 5-0 run before St. Pius X-St. Matthias sophomore guard Victoria Fernandez’s basket made it 5-2. From that point on, Antelope Valley surged ahead on a 27-6 run to close out the first half.

The Antelopes began the second half on a 6-0 run, establishing a 38-8 lead early in the third quarter. The Warriors responded with an 8-2 run, which cut Antelope Valley’s lead to 40-16 with 4:45 remaining in the third.

Price, who wore a knee brace, left the game with an apparent injury with 3:24 to go in the third. However, the 6-foot-2 forward checked back and drained a 3-pointer with a minute to go, which put her team up 53-25.

“We’re a little bang up right now, a little injury but we didn’t let that get to us,” Price said.

Antelope Valley led 53-28 heading into the fourth quarter. St. Pius X responded again, this time with a 10-5 run, and pulled within 58-38 with 4:15 to go.

“Our girls never quit,” said first-year St. Pius X-St. Matthias coach Nelson Wong. “They played their hearts out and they showed a lot of character and heart when they could have folded their tents in at halftime.”

Soil’s back-to-back layups put the Antelopes up 62-38, before closing out a 71-44 victory.

“It means a lot to us because nobody would have ever thought AV would be in this position but we wanted it… from the team we started with to the team we ended with, two different teams,” Soil said.

 

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