by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Eagles Boys Basketball team demonstrated toughness in their 65-50 loss to the Grandview Bulldogs on Friday, February 14th. The Eagles did not let their height disadvantage or the full court pressure they faced the entire game hinder their will to compete.
Grain Valley consistently broke Grandview’s press by advancing the ball with good floor spacing and sound judgment in passing. The result of this work often left Grain Valley winded at the start of their half-court offense. The Eagles met the challenge with their starters turning in an abundance of minutes played and points scored.
Seniors Caden Matlon and Josh Kilpatick along with Junior Jaden Yung were the top scorers for the Eagles. Matlon sunk a trio of three pointers on his way to scoring 20 points. Kilpatrick and Yung backed Matlon’s effort by scoring 10 points each themselves.
Grandview’s high octane offense was fueled by Sophomore Taj Manning in the post and Senior Reggie Morris Jr. in the frontcourt. Manning led all scorers with 23 points. Morris Jr.’s 19 points came from sound shooting judgment and efficiency at the free throw line.
The opening sequence of the second half demonstrated the story line of the game. Manning came down from the top of the key on a set screen to dunk the received alley-oop pass for the Bulldogs. Both Yung and Matlon responded for the Eagles with back to back three pointers that cut the Grandview lead to 35-24 with 7:01 left in the 3rd quarter.
The Eagles would go on to cut the lead to below double digits twice more in the second half. However, they were unable to chip away at Grandview’s lead any further. Grandview’s bench depth and player substitution rotation kept fresh bodies on the court as they pulled away at the end of the contest.
Grain Valley Head Basketball Coach Andy Herbert was disappointed in the outcome, but not with his team’s effort.
“I thought our kids did a really good job against their press. We talked and prepped for this before the game in that the press will not only physically exhaust you, it will mentally exhaust you was well in that you have to make thousands of decisions.,” Herbert said.
“Our team was able to handle that and have three to four possessions of good basketball in a row before we got silly with some things. That’s a credit to them (Grandview) and their defense.”
“We really competed. The effort was there tonight by us. When you play someone as physically demanding as Grandview, you can get your feelings hurt when they alley-oop or make an exciting play. I am proud that those things didn’t bother us tonight as we played with a straight face.”
Herbert continued, “Jaden (Yung) belongs. He’s subtlety improving. He’s always had ability. It’s been the little things though that he’s worked on regarding his footwork and defense that’s making the difference for him right now.”
Yung’s stat line for the game also included 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. Yung seemed to enjoy the pressure and the competition that occurred on the court with the comments he shared after the game.
“Definitely, we passed the ball well tonight and hustled to get open. They (Grandview) run up and down the court a lot. It’s fun to face a team with their talent. It gives you a chance to step up and do your best in giving your team a chance,” Yung said.
Kilpatrick echoed Yung’s remarks and felt the Eagles had worked hard in practice to prepare for their Suburban Conference opponent.
“We worked a lot in preparing for their press. Our JV guys worked hard in making sure we were ready for this by what they did in practice. Grandview is a great team. The tough shots that didn’t go for us tonight led to them getting fast break points and pulling away,” Kilpatrick said.
“Something I’ve learned over the years is that having height comes with the responsibility to crash the boards. Everyone of us has the obligation to get position, regardless of whether we are at a height disadvantage.
They have a great player in Manning that gets rebounds and is a handful in the paint. We did our best. I was very pleased with how we played for three quarters. The fourth quarter we were in foul trouble and they made their free throws.”
Herbert shared his thoughts as his team prepares for late February basketball that lies ahead. The Eagles will move into Class 4, District 14 Tournament play with a 15-8 record.
“Tonight, was a game we can build on. There are bits and pieces we can take away that are positives. We also must get better at avoiding clusters of negative offensive possessions.
It can’t be turnover, bad shot, turnover. It becomes hard to withstand those things against the good teams we are going to face in district play,” Herbert said.