by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Eagles boys basketball program witnessed seniors Cole Keller, Keeton Maxon, and Jayden Yung leave the floor winners on senior night. A total team effort from start to finish led to a 59-44 win over Suburban Conference rival Fort Osage on February 12th. The Eagles outscored their opponent each quarter while successfully pushing the ball in transition and making critical free throws down the final stretch.
Grain Valley was sound in defeating the full court pressure applied by the Indians that stalled the Eagles offense at times during their previous matchup on January 22nd. Communication was also paramount for Grain Valley head coach Andy Herbert’s squad as they did not lose defenders in Fort Osage’s motion offense, due to effectively calling out switches on defense and mirroring the movement by the Indians.
“Against the press we’ve worked to train our eyes to look past the pressure. It sounds simple in that if you two guys are guarding you, then someone is open. The first time we played them (Fort Osage) at their place we panicked against the pressure. Obviously, we have worked on that since then,” Herbert said.
“We have told this group if you keep pushing you will see the light and we are getting closer to that all time.”
“This game is about everyone having a role of some sort. You become a good team when everyone flourishes in their role. Not everyone is going to score 24 points and have 9 rebounds, but we have guys like Nick Hooper who is the ultimate ‘glue guy’ to me. He takes two charges on defense. Avery (Garmon) sinks a three and makes two free throws. Alex (Snyder) and Keagan (Hart) have been back with us now two days and Snyder makes two key layups.”
Herbert concluded, “Our seniors played well, we won, and they got a curtain call at the end. I feel bad in a way that their senior year has been this in playing in front of limited capacity and their friends not getting to watch them compete. This group of seniors has made the most of their opportunities. Every player that plays four years for us is special in some way.”
“Cole (Keller) got to the varsity stage as a sophomore. He missed his junior year due to injury. He has battled adversary to come back and be extremely productive this season. Jayden (Yung) has shown a level of toughness after going between being a varsity and junior varsity player last year. He had the intestinal fortitude to realize that if he worked on getting better, he would be rewarded and that has been the case. Keeton (Maxon) did not get to play a varsity second until his senior year. A lot of kids in this day and age would have quit and instead he stuck with it and is starting to see the fruit of his work.”
The scoring 24 points and having 9 rebounds was a reference to Keller who also chipped in 2 assists and 6 blocks on senior night. Keller was all smiles after the contest, eating blue icing cookies with his teammates and dawning a senior t-shirt. Keller’s stellar output was joined by his fellow Eagles closing out the contest.
Yung would score a transition layup with 2:32 left in the fourth quarter to push Grain Valley’s lead to 12 at 50-38. Yung would continue being clutch down the stretch once Fort Osage started fouling to extend the game. Yung would step to the free throw line and drain both attempts with 1:04 left in the game, extending his team’s lead even further. Yung would finish with 9 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.
Junior forward Nick Hooper also made a free throw and took a charge under the Fort Osage basket with under a minute left in the game. Hooper would contribute 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists as part of his stat line. Garmon’s sinking of two free throws with under 30 seconds left in the game sealed the victory for the Eagles.
“For sure my favorite part on senior night is the solid team win. We have comradery on the court and enjoy hanging out with each other outside of basketball as well,” Keller said.
Maxon added, “I stayed in my box tonight and it led to four points for me. Coach always encourages us to stay in our box. I have fun being around Jayden and my teammates.”
Yung finished, “We have been pressed a lot by our opponents recently. Beating it like we did tonight leaves us playing five on three basketball and that is fun.”
Leading scorers for Fort Osage included juniors Trent Hogland and Arthur Wyatt who racked up 12 and 14 points, respectively.
Grain Valley (6-11) will face Raytown, William Chrisman, and Truman the week of February 15th.
From left to right: Senior Keeton Maxon, senior Jayden Yung, Eagles head coach Andy Herbert, and senior Cole Keller.
Photo credit: Valley news staff
Junior Nick Hooper completes a contested layup for the Eagles.
Photo credit: John Overstreet