by Michael Smith
This is the game that Grain Valley girls basketball coach Randy Draper said he was waiting for.
More often than not, senior forward Grace Slaughter scores a bulk of the team’s points, often dropping 30-plus.
In Friday’s championship game of the Grain Valley Invitational, Draper in the Eagles didn’t need Slaughter score as much as usual.
The senior did have a game-high 23 points, but had plenty of help as guard McKenah Sears and Finley LaForge combined for 26 points in a 63-44 victory at home against the Blue Springs South Jaguars.
“I have always envisioned multiple scoring options with the way we moved the ball,” Draper said. “Today is about as close as he have come to being where I want us to be offensively.
“Now you gotta do it again.”
And that’s the kind of performance Draper hopes to get out of his players not named Grace Slaughter for future games. If Grain Valley can get games like what LaForge and Sears had, the team could be dangerous come playoff time.
LaForge scored 14 points, including a trio of 3-point baskets and Sears added 12 as she hit a pair of treys to help Grain Valley space the floor.
“Three of us were in double digits and that is key for us,” LaForge said. “It is hard to beat us when three or four of our players are in double digits, especially with Grace on our team.”
Added Sears: “If we can keep doing what we are doing with our double digit scorers, and we are sharing the wealth, we are going to win.”
After the Eagles posed for photos following the win, they doused Draper with water in the weight room.
“If they play like that, they can do that all the time,” Draper said of the water dump from his players. “It’s not like it ruins my hair.”
Grain Valley raced out to a 20-6 advantage at the end of the first period and held on to a 27-15 lead at halftime. In the first half, South star forward Kendall Puryear scored 13 points. For the rest of the game, the Eagles limited her to six as they focused a lot of their defensive attention to stopping the junior.
Grain Valley packed the paint to make it difficult for Puryear to receive entry passes. Any time she caught the ball in the second half, there were at least two Eagles defenders surrounding her. Draper and his players gave senior forward Ella Clyman a bulk of the credit for the defense on Puryear.
Not only did the Grain Valley defense do a good job of guarding Puryear in the post in the final 16 minutes, the Eagles made life difficult for South’s perimeter players as they hounded them, got into passing lanes and got deflections that resulted in turnovers.
“When we realized she was their main threat, we really buckled down,” Sears said. “We were laying off their other shooters and made their guards prove they could shoot before we guarded them close on the perimeter.”
“(Puryear) is really, really strong, but Ella did a really good job on her.
For the game, Grain Valley (14-4) had 11 steals and that helped it take a 43-27 lead into the fourth as the team cruised to a victory.
Slaughter, Sears and LaForge were all named to the all-tournament team.
The Grain Valley girls basketball team poses for photos after defeating Blue Springs South 63-44 in the championship of the Grain Valley Invitational. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Junior forward Meghan Knust, right, drives baseline with Blue Springs South junior Kendall Puryear, left, and senior Koeeyn Van Acker defending her. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley sophomore Camryn Kelly, right, tries to get by Blue Springs South sophomore Mykael Hicks. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley junior McKenah Sears unleashes a 3-pointer from the wing. Photo credit: Michael Smith
by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley boys basketball team has been on fire.
The Eagles came into the Grain Valley Invitational semifinal game against Platte County on a six-game winning streak.
A big part of that spurt has been the defense. During the winning streak, Grain Valley has surrendered just 47.1 points per game. On Thursday, Grain Valley turned in another stellar defensive performance, holding the Pirates offense in check during a 64-40 victory at home.
The Eagles advance to the championship game of their tournament for the first time since 2014. They will play St. Thomas Aquinas out of Kansas at 3:30pm for the championship.
“We went from a team that was flinching every time and were scared to play defense to a team that gets in the passing lanes and is frothing at the mouth get after it on defense,” Grain Valley junior Stylz Blackmon said.
For the Eagles, it came down to stopping two players – Boston Wahlert and Judah Vignery. The former scored a team-high 15 points but Vignerty only had three as Grain Valley executed their defensive game plan to near perfection.
“If we handle those two, then we can mess with them,” Grain Valley freshman Eli Herbert said. “They were confused the whole night and they were second guessing everything and that was what was great about our defense.”
“We tried to make every pass as hard as possible. When they tried to get downhill, we just squeezed it and we have sneaky long arms with our guards and we could get tipped passes.”
Grain Valley head coach Andy Herbert was certainly pleased with the defensive effort of his team and being unselfish on offense.
“We knew who their shooters were other than (Boston Wahlert), who got loose early,” Grain Valley head coach Andy Herbert said. “We didn’t get to him in the first half but we did in the second half.
“It also comes down to rebounding and our guys did a decent job of that. The guys played tough and they were unselfish.”
Eli helped give the Eagles a 16-11 lead by scoring 13 of his game-high 22 points in the first half as he was off to a hot start. His team extended the advantage to 36-23 at halftime after Blackmon put in seven of his 12 points in the frame.
Blackmon, who comes off the bench and splits minutes with starting forward Rhylan Alcanter has fit his role perfectly for the Eagles as a low-post scorer, a rebounder and a rim protector.
“Stylz is a great kid. He works hard and he’s so fun to be around,” Eli said. “When Rhylan comes out, you can’t tell the difference. That’s a nice thing to have two post guys like that.”
Blackmon said he enjoys his role on the team.
“I am happy my team is winning and I want to do anything to help my team win,” Blackmon said. “I am glad that all the puzzle pieces fit together as Coach said earlier. We have guys who play well together and know their role.”
The Eagles (13-5) ballooned the lead to 49-33 going into the fourth with Alcanter putting in six points and Herbert was able to empty his bench 3 minutes in the fourth as his team led by as many as 24 points.
Alcanter added 10 points to help his team to victory. Platte County Chandavean Bradley also had 15 points for the Pirates.
Grain Valley junior Logan Marcum, right, looks for an open teammate.
Grain Valley senior Owen Herbert is by himself during a fast-break opportunity after receiving a pass from Jack Schoen.
The next senior luncheon hosted by the City of Grain Valley is coming up Wednesday, February 1st at the Grain Valley Community Center, 713 Main St. Doors open at 11:30am, with lunch beginning at Noon. A $3 recommended donation is requested for lunch.
Bingo follows the luncheon; $1/card for those who would like to participate.
Those who did not RSVP at the January luncheon and would like to attend should RSVP to 816-847-6230 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Swartz may be a first-time candidate for the Grain Valley School Board, but her connections to Grain Valley run deep.
Swartz attended Grain Valley schools from 5th grade until she graduated from Grain Valley High School (GVHS) in 2002. She married her high school sweetheart, also a Grain Valley grad, and has one son who attends Sni-A-Bar Elementary, where Swartz is the secretary of the school’s PTA. Swartz is also active in her homeowners’ association. Swartz says her decision to run for school board simply stems from her desire to be involved in her community.
“It is something that has always intrigued me. Really, it is just an opportunity to give back to a community I love. I’ve lived here a really long time. I went to school here, and now have a child in the district. I think I could add a different ear to the current board.”
After attending the University of Central Missouri and starting a career in the advertising and public relations industry, Swartz felt called to become a teacher. Swartz taught at GVHS, teaching journalism, photography, and yearbook for five years before moving to William Chrisman High School to teach English. Swartz later earned a counseling degree and now serves as a counselor at William Chrisman.
Pointing to heated issues surrounding public education that tend to make headlines regionally and nationally, Swartz maintains the focus of members of the school board should be on thoughtful, patient leadership, and making sure the district staff entrusted with students “need to know they are appreciated and valued for what they do.”
“When you look nationally, we seem to be super divided right now as a nation. I think this person over here on this extreme is loud, and this person on the other extreme is loud, and most of us live in this middle that is pretty content and happy. We like each other and once we understand each other we work really well together,” Swartz said.
“I’ve had great experiences with my son’s teachers, and any issues he’s had, it has always been resolved and done appropriately. Through my involvement with the school, I feel like I know what is going on, because I have chosen to be involved. I think that what happens often is we make a lot of assumptions about what is going on in our schools without really getting involved or taking time to understand.”
When asked about how she views the role of a board member and the priorities the school board should be focused on in the next few years, recruitment and retention of staff and equitable facilities for all students were top of mind for Swartz.
“The role of the board is very defined. Hold the adults accountable that are in charge. Making sure you have the best staff in place. Making sure you are attracting the best staff to meet the needs of all students, and thoughtfully looking at policies and procedures.”
Swartz says the best practice for board members to navigate tough issues and ensure the community is heard and involved is to carefully consider each issue and not make impulsive decisions.
“Really vetting something out, really taking time to understand fully what is going on and how a decision may impact staff and students. I also think it would be great if we got more student input on issues.”
In terms of priorities, Swartz believes the board should focus on staffing and planning for future growth.
“One of our top priorities should be attracting the best teachers, because ultimately that is who our kids spend their day with all day, every day. I could still tell you the names of all my teachers from kindergarten to sixth grade. They (teachers) are the true foundation of how our kids grow up. We want to make sure we are attracting the best qualified, diverse pool candidates so we are sure we represent our population appropriately.”
“We also need to continue to make sure class sizes are equitable for all students and that we are focused on thoughtful future growth.”
Swartz said that she has noticed that while there is understandable focus on the achievements of high school students during school board meeting recognitions, she would like to see highlights of achievements in all grades more regularly.
“We celebrate all the state finalists, high school scholarship and other award recipients, which is common and understandable. Our early childhood, elementary, and middle schools deserve just as much love as sanctioned high school activities.”
“Our early childhood center is phenomenal. And we know that if we get kids the early interventions they need, their success can be that much greater and much quicker. There are so many great things going on at the elementary and middle school levels that should be celebrated as well.”
Asked if there was anything else she would like to share with residents, Swartz had one plea.
“Vote. Just vote. In a town of more than 15,000 people, it is surprising we have such low voter turnout. Whether I get elected or not, or whether the board looks like who I would choose or not, it is what our community wants. But when we have such a low voter turnout, it is hard to believe that it is a true reflection of what our community wants. I want everyone to vote because I want our board to be a reflection of the people who live here, who love our schools and the community that we have.”
Swartz is one of seven candidates running for Grain Valley School Board, just one of several issues for voters on the April 4, 2023 municipal election ballot. For voter registration information, visit www.jcebmo.org.
Valley News will profile each candidate on the ballot in the weeks leading up to the election, provide a voter guide, and plans a candidate forum in late March. To search for all election related articles, click on “Elections” under the categories on our News page.
Sarah Swartz is one of seven candidates running for Grain Valley School Board.
Photo credit; Grain Valley News staff
The Board of Education met January 19th and began the meeting by recognizing All-State band and orchestra students, and the state champion high school cheer team.
Denise Holmberg, RN, Director of Health Services, gave an update on the health program. Holmberg reported that each building in the district is supplied with Narcan (brand name for Naloxone), which is used to treat narcotic overdose in an emergency. Holmberg also highlighted a partnership with Giving the Basics, a local nonprofit which supplies personal care items that are not covered by government assistance programs. Approximately 150 students benefit from participation in the program.
A review of the administrative dashboard noted student attendance at 84.9%, dipping below the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) 90% standard.
A trap shooting club for high school students, to meet at Lake Lotawana Sportsmen’s Club, plans to begin meeting as early as March.
Safety bollards being installed at front entrance of all schools. The high school’s bollard will be stone, matching the current stone elements at the entrance.
The timeline for the 2023-24 budget planning process were reviewed. First estimates of revenues for 2023-24 are expected in March. Priorities for the next budget year include maintaining class sizes within district standards, addressing the “increasing costs of meeting the academic and behavioral needs of all students”, and providing competitive pay for staff.
The Board also discussed the video broadcasting of school board meetings. Superintendent Brad Welle indicated the opportunity to broadcast meetings for online viewing by patrons may be possible as early as June 2023 when the Board begins meeting in the district’s new central office building.
The next meeting of the Board of Education will be held February 16th.
Park University has announced the recipients of competitive academic scholarships. These scholarships have been awarded to current high school seniors who are expected to enroll in college starting with the Fall 2023 semester.
Emmalee Lockwood, Grain Valley High School, was among 19 students awared the Park Trustee Scholarship. The scholarship provides incoming freshmen with a $7,500 award toward tuition for four years.
The Board of Aldermen met January 23rd, approving ballot language for the April 4th municipal election asking voters to approve a sales tax of 3% on recreational marijuana sales, and worked through a series of resolutions and ordinances.
Following a public hearing, the Board approved the voluntary annexation of two properties. Tract 1, owned by Dale and Teresa Smith is located at 4112 S Buckner Tarsney Road, and tract 2, owned by The Road Church, 4108 S Buckner Tarsney Road, were a part of the annexation.
Also considered following a public hearing was the creation of a Community Improvement District for Creekside Village, to fund private street maintenance costs. Following a 3-3 tie, Mayor Todd made the tiebreaking vote to approve the first reading of the ordinance.
The Board also approved the first reading of an ordinance to approve the final development plan for Copper Creek, formerly known as The Lofts at Creekside Landing and final plat approval for the Lofts at Creekside Landing. Alderman Arnold continued to express opposition to the project and was the lone no vote.
Several purchases were approved through resolutions, including the replacement of existing computer desktops, laptops, monitors and equipment, per the Computer Equipment Replacement Program (CERP), the purchase of a John Deere commercial mower for the Parks Department, two trucks for Community Development and Public Works, and a message sign for Public Works to use in work zones and special events.
In other business, the Board approved a resolution to contract with Grain Valley Assistance Council to coordinate the Home Delivered Meals Program.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Aldermen will be held at City Hall on Monday, February 13, 2023 at 7:00pm.
2023 marks the second year the Grain Valley Historical Society, with financial support from State Bank of Missouri, has sold calendars as a way to make money to help fund our society. Beginning with January, on the last Thursday of each month, this column will feature an article telling readers what I know about the photograph.
This photo of Kershaw & Williams, General Blacksmithing was a gift to the historical society some years ago by Ruby Williams Wyatt (1908-2004). Ruby was the daughter of one of the owners, Charles “Buck” (on the left) and Pearl (Dishman) Williams. The small boy was Ruby’s brother Charles E. Williams, Jr.
Buck Williams was born on a farm southeast of Grain Valley on August 24, 1878, the year the town was founded. While his father came from Kentucky, his mother was born in Missouri. Mr. Williams is buried in Blue Springs.
Mrs. Wyatt shared with us that her father was also a sign painter and he did all of the signs for Sni-a-Bar Farms in the 1920s, 30s and early 40s. He also made the stall cards for all of the famous SAB show cattle.
The Kershaw gentleman in the photograph (far right) is probably Robert, born in Savannah, Missouri, on September 29, 1879. From the ages of the two young boys, I believe Robert Walter Kershaw, Jr. is the older boy on the right side of the photo. He would have been around 8 or 9 years-old when the picture was taken. Mr. Kershaw and his wife are buried in Harrisonville, Missouri. Mr. Kershaw’s parents Peter Ferdinand and Hannah (Walters) Kershaw are buried in the Grain Valley Cemetery, north of town on Seymour Road. Peter Kershaw is one of only two Confederate soldiers buried there.
A 1924 plat map of Grain Valley shows a blacksmith shop on Third Street, east of Broadway (now Main Street). One can only guess this might have been the place, although it looks more like the building that housed the Grain Valley Lumber Yard in the 1950s. It was immediately south of the railroad tracks, also on the east side of Main Street.
For those of you who may be newcomers to Grain Valley, Buck Williams was the Great Grandfather x3 of Mackenzie (GVHS, Class of 2023) and Cole Keller (GVHS, Class of 2021).
Photo credit: Grain Valley Historical Society
We are in the middle of Truman Heartland Community Foundation’s (THCF) scholarship season, with the February 24 due date for most of our scholarships coming up fast. We hope that you will encourage any graduating high school seniors or current undergraduate and graduate students in your life to apply by visiting www.thcf.org/scholarships.
Many of our scholarships utilize the General Application. Students complete one basic application and are automatically matched to more than 50 scholarships they might be eligible for. By reviewing the matches and submitting the requested supplemental information, such as essays or letters of recommendation, students can apply for multiple scholarships with one application.
There is no limit on how many scholarships a student can apply for, but both the General Application and all the supplemental information for each scholarship the applicants are matched to must be submitted by the February 24 deadline. We recommend that students get started on the application process soon to ensure they have enough time to complete all the requirements for each scholarship they are matched with.
There has been tremendous growth in scholarship funds at the Foundation over the years. Between 2018 and 2022, scholarship awards increased more than 157% to a record-setting high of more than $740,000 last year. With the addition of 18 new scholarship funds in 2022, we anticipate another record-setting year for scholarships in 2023.
I find the growth in our scholarship program remarkable but not surprising. In a time when extreme polarization of opinions on many different topics has become the norm in our society, we find that many different people from a variety of walks of life care deeply about supporting students and their educational and career aspirations. Earning a college degree opens many doors, but students often take on enormous debt to reach their goals.
Scholarships offer students a way to offset some costs, making students’ educational dreams an attainable reality. We are grateful to be able to help fundholders make meaningful gifts and help local students meet their educational goals—it truly is a win for everyone.
Rachael Watkins is our Director of Scholarships, and she can be reached at 816-912-4185 or email@example.com if students have any questions about applying for our scholarships. Contact Vice President of Advancement Cole Eason at 816-912-4182 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in learning more about establishing a scholarship fund with THCF.
Avila University recently announced its Fall 2022 Dean’s List recipients, recognizing the academic excellence of the more than 330 undergraduate students who earned the distinction.
The dean’s list comprises undergraduate students who meet requirements in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Professional Schools. All full-time admitted undergraduate students are eligible for the dean’s list. To be included on the dean’s list, students must have successfully completed at least 12 credit hours with at least a 3.5-grade point average for the semester.
Five students from Grain Valley were included in the Fall 2022 Dean's List: