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Kiki Rice, Gabriela Jaquez star at McDonald’s All-American game

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Kiki Rice and Gabriela Jaquez were named co-MVPs. (Provided by McDonald's.)

CHICAGO — With 4:37 remaining in the second quarter of the McDonald’s All-American game Tuesday, the East held a comfortable 15-point lead over the West. Gabriela Jaquez, seeking to provide a spark for the West, drove hard to the basket, but defender Talaysia Cooper (East Clarendon High School; Turbeville, S.C.), a South Carolina signee, stayed close, forcing the UCLA signee to settle for a tough shot in the paint.

Camarillo did not have many of those in her four years at Adolfo Camarillo High School (Camarillo, Calif.), where she scored more than 1,100 points and averaged 34.2 points per game as a senior. That degree of offensive success takes discipline, but it also means understanding that all the shots you take won’t land.

Indeed, the ball clanked off the rim. West teammate Isuneh Brady (Cathedral Catholic High School; San Diego, Calif.), a UConn commit, snagged the offensive rebound, though, and every East player on the court paid attention to the ball, allowing Jaquez to slip down to the corner. Brady passed it out to Arizona signee Maya Nnaji (Hopkins High School; Hopkins, Minn.) at the top of the key, and Nnaji swung it to the wide-open Jaquez.

Jaquez for three. Swoosh.

The 6-foot forward poured in a team-high 17 points in the East’s 95-75 victory and logged almost 25 minutes on the court, more than any player on either team.

Jacquez’s performance against top-flight competition pointed to a bright future at UCLA, where she’ll team up with JWS Player of the Year Kiki Rice, who also scored 17 points and with whom she shared co-MVP honors.

“To be co-MVP with my future UCLA teammate just makes the experience so much more special,” Rice said. “I think the future’s bright.”

The East led for a full 40 minutes — a testament to the chemistry of coach Patty Evers’ (East Bladen High School; Elizabethtown, NC) roster, balanced scoring from beyond the arc (with five separate players draining at least one 3-pointer) and Rice’s calm leadership.

Rice set the tone from the onset. Her strengths as a player lie in her ability to keep her composure amid chaos, even when the chaos is playing with 23 of the best basketball players in the senior class.

She recorded five assists and grabbed four defensive rebounds in addition to her scoring output. Jaquez totaled two assists and a steal while pulling down nine rebounds. Both future Bruins were also perfect from the free-throw line.

“Gabs’ and Kiki’s talent is only matched by their work ethic, character and competitive nature,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “I’m very excited about their future impact on the Bruins.”

The East Team, which also managed to secure a victory in Sunday’s non-televised scrimmage, forced 21 total turnovers in Tuesday’s game and had five players score in double figures.

Cooper, who finished with 15 points, elicited shouts of disbelief from the crowd in the first quarter after crossing over USC signee Aaliyah Gayles (Spring Valley High School; Las Vegas, Nev.) and flying past help defender KK Bransford (Mount Notre Dame High School; Cincinnati; Ohio), a Notre Dame signee, in one of the game’s finer moments of ball-handling.

Ta’Niya Latson (American Heritage High School; Plantation, Fla.), a 5-foot-9 guard bound for Florida State, also dropped 15 points. Perhaps most impressive was her efficiency. She shot over 50 percent on 10 shots, including three 3-pointers.

If Tuesday’s showdown was, in fact, a peak into the future, college basketball might be on the precipice of reaching new heights. The 170 total points scored are believed to be the most in the game’s 19-year history.

Caroline Makauskas is a contributing writer for Just Women’s Sports. She also writes about college basketball for Blue Ribbon Sports and covers a variety of sports on her TikTok @cmakauskas. Follow her on Twitter @cmakauskas.