STAMFORD, Conn. -- Stamford Peace earned a top 16 finish out of 57 teams in the recently completed AAU eighth-grade girls national championships in Orlando, Fla.
Peace, coached by Colette Kelly, posted a 6-2 record over five days to account for the best nationals finish since 2011, when Peace’s then-eighth-grade girls finished sixth in the same event.
Peace compiled a 4-0 record in pool play in capturing the FF Pool championship. In game one, Stamford was down 10-0 early but used a 33-8 run before halftime to take control of the game and earn a 52-43 win over Indy Shock.
McKenna Frank (Stamford/Greenwich Country Day School) and Brooke Kelly (Stamford/AITE HS) paced Peace with 11 points each. Tatiana Arias (Norwalk/Brien McMahon High School) and Emily Tuin (Wilton/Wilton High School) came off the bench to spark the late first-half run and accounted for six points apiece.
Alexa Kellner (Stamford/Stamford HS) dominated game two by pouring in 17 points to lift Peace to a 51-41 win over Florida Lightning 2018. Kelly chipped in with 11 points. Peace moved to 3-0 in pool play by dumping the Livingston Ladies 76-36. Frank tossed in 20 points for Peace, and Maya Klein (Stamford/St. Luke’s) netted 10. Peace’s bench accounted for 31 points, keyed by Dana Mills (Stamford/New Canaan Country School) and Ajsa Vega (Norwalk/Norwalk High), who each chipped in eight. Bridget Dalton (Pound Ridge, N.Y./St. Luke’s) and Lauren Robertson (Wilton/Wilton HS) netted six points apiece for Peace.
Stamford Peace captured the Pool FF title by rallying from nine points down with 3:45 to play to upend Massachusetts Blue Fire 58-50 in overtime. Claire Gulbin (Wilton/Wilton HS) posted 13 points, and Klein added 11 for Peace. Arias was again a spark off the bench with 10 points and numerous steals, while Frank netted 10 points.
In the first round of championship bracket play, Klein sparked a rally from 13 points down with seven minutes left by scoring 11 straight points – including three 3-pointers – as Peace collected a 51-45 win over Cincy Swish-Dennis, also in overtime. Kellner scored six of the 13 Peace points in overtime to close out the win. Klein finished with 17 points, all in the second half and overtime, while Gulbin collected nine points.
In the Sweet 16, a fatigued Stamford Peace team finally found a deficit they couldn’t overcome and fell to Cincy Swish BB, 62-49. Kelly popped in 17 points while Frank netted 13, as the Peace fell to 5-1 overall.
Peace came back strong in its next game in the double-elimination tournament, pulling out a 51-45 win over Hudson River Hornets. Klein paced the Peace attack with 12 points while Kellner and Frank each chipped in with 11 in helping Peace to advance.
Disappointingly, Peace’s run in the AAU Nationals came to a close the following morning. Playing without Kelly, who sustained a knee injury the night before, Stamford battled a huge Indy Havoc front line but eventually fell short, 63-54. For the second straight game, Peace hit seven 3-pointers, but the Havoc’s size ultimately prevailed. Klein (16 points), Frank (14) and Gulbin (12) keyed the Peace offensive attack.
For the tournament, Frank (11.9 points per game) and Klein (10.4) averaged in double figures for Peace, while Kellner (8.4), Kelly (8.3) and Gulbin (7.5) all were consistent offensive stalwarts.