by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Eagles Boys Basketball team was off and running in their home opener on Wednesday, December 11th as they defeated the Smithville Warriors by a score of 77-46.
The transition game was paramount as the night progressed with Eagle rebounds leading to the ball being pushed up court to find open cutters to the hoop. Grain Valley was opportunistic in finding open shooters at the elbow and three point arc as well on the rare occasions when the basketball was stopped.
Senior Point Guard Caden Matlon was an ace at ball handling and identifying cutters to pass to when he wasn’t finishing the scoring himself. Matlon finished with 11 points, 6 assists, and 2 steals.
His knowledge of the offense and confidence to push the ball in the open court helped the Eagles to break away after only leading by five points after the first quarter.
“I noticed early on that they intended to pressure me at the point. Josh (Kilpatrick) was able to get the basket with ease tonight and I knew we needed to start feeding him. His scoring also opened up the offense for other people to contribute,” Matlon said.
“Us working on our transition game last night at practice helped us tonight. They are a pressing team and we like to get out and run as much as we can.”
It is easy to tell that the game has slowed down for Matlon in how he handles the basketball and knowing where he wants it to go when passing.
“My confidence has improved a lot over the past year and getting to play with Josh for three years now of varsity ball is special. Once one of us starts to score and get going it just eases everything else and we smile and feed off one another,” Matlon said.
To say that Senior Forward Josh Kilpatrick fed off Matlon during the game would be an understatement. Kilpatrick had a superb night with a career high 35 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 assist.
Just as impressive is how seamlessly Kilpatrick has transitioned from a wing player last year to a post player this season. Kilpatrick was solid at establishing his pivot foot and turning to the basket with ease while getting separation from the defender. No small task for someone who’s newer to the role of mixing it up in the paint.
Kilpatrick credited the Eagles coaching staff in his post-game comments all while holding back a wry smile when asked about his performance.
“We played good defense at the beginning of the game tonight. That lead to easy fast break points that got us going. My teammates were unselfish in passing the ball and putting me in a spot where I could score for the team and that boosted us throughout the game,” Kilpatrick said.
“This offseason I worked on playing more inside because of some of the players that graduated and Cole (Keller) being injured right now. I’m trying to do as much as I can for my team and teammates. Coach Quintrell was a post guy and he pushes us to do our best and he’s been an inspiration to me. It’s definitely helped my game.”
Grain Valley’s formula for victory also included effective rebounding due to boxing out under the basket. The confidence in understanding angles of approach to the basket as well as where other team members were on the floor helped the team’s efficiency in scoring.
The Eagles mainly stayed in man defense throughout the game. Smithville tried to take advantage of that strategy by stretching the floor in looking to take open three point shots and identifying cutters to the bastket. The strategy did not yield the results Smithville wanted in the outcome of the game.
Eagles Head Basketball Coach Andy Herbert was pleased with his team’s 31 point margin of victory while also identifying opportunities for improvement with his team moving forward.
“We are at our best in transition when we get out and run. We haven’t got to do that much this year mostly because we haven’t been getting the ball in quick enough. Seth (Dankenbring) and Caden (Matlon) did a good job tonight of getting it going by being willing passers who understand the angles of the game. Compound that with getting the taste of if I sprint, I might get to score, and things become easier,” Herbert said.
“The second half I was disappointed with how easy it was for Smithville to drive to the basket at times. We have plenty still to work on with our on the ball defense. Our rotation at times has also left us four on five defensively with a free runner to the rim if we don’t box out across the board.”
Herbert continued with his thoughts on Kirkpatrick’s outstanding individual effort of scoring a career high 35 points.
“Josh is such a relentless cutter without the basketball. He’s in constant movement. As a defender if you relax or don’t have the will to chase him all night, he’s open. That also makes him hard to block out if you are out of position as a defender. He’s worked extremely hard and I am obviously happy for him,” Herbert said.
The Eagles will face their next opponent at home on Friday, December 13th when the Harrisonville Wildcats pay a visit.
Senior Forward Gavin Oyler attempts a post shot underneath the basket.
Photo credit: John Overstreet
Senior Forward Josh Kilpatrick drives to the basket.
Photo credit: John Overstreet