by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Eagles boys basketball team maintained a lead for three quarters against the William Chrisman Bears on February 19th before the game slipped away in the final quarter. Junior guard Dayne Herl produced the game winning layup for the Bears with 4 seconds remaining in the game. The final score of 57-55, with William Chrisman coming out on top was hard to accept for Grain Valley due to their spirited effort.
Both teams are familiar with the other being in the same conference and having played each other previously in February. That led to frequent coaching adjustments by Grain Valley Eagles head coach Andy Herbert and William Chrisman Bears head coach Jack Kates during the game. The strategy deployed from both benches made the game fun to watch and nerve racking for those competing.
Grain Valley’s first quarter lead was the result of point guard Jayden Yung identifying forward Cole Keller in the post and making accurate entry passes that afforded Keller the opportunity to turn and score. Kates maneuvered his offense during the 2nd quarter to start attacking the lane from the top of the key with Herl and senior guard Anthony Watkins. The result was the Bears narrowing the Eagles lead to 3 points by a score of 29-26 at halftime.
Herbert would respond at the start of the second half by inserting sophomore guard Keagan Hart into the Eagles lineup to defensively shadow the perimeter play of Herl and Watkins. Grain Valley would also start to kick the ball inside out in allowing sophomore guard Owen Herbert to hit a trio of three pointers in the contest.
Keller would contribute 23 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks, and 1 steal as the Eagles leading scorer. Yung would add 11 points, 2 rebounds, and 3 assists. The feisty effort was not enough for the Eagles to secure victory as they were outscored by the Bears 15-9 in the fourth quarter.
“I have confidence in my feet and being able to protect against the drive, especially knowing that I have help in our defense. Playing junior varsity minutes gets me primed to be called on when I am asked to check someone by Coach (Herbert),” Hart said.
Keller added, “We played a more complete game then the last time we played them (William Chrisman). At the same time, it is unfortunate when things don’t fall your way. They played a hell of a game and made some shots when they needed to and that is how the chips fell.”
Keller continues to encounter physical post play from the opposition. Teams are transfixed on taking away the Eagles frontcourt scoring option and willing to burn fouls and push the limits of aggressive play. Keller has responded with maturity beyond his years to maintain composure and not backing down from what is presented. A trait admired by his head coach.
“We played hard tonight. Our opponent made tough shots. Defensively, we were not good enough in certain situations. They (William Chrisman) spread the floor and took advantage of that as the game progressed. Guarding the ball is the hardest thing to do in this game,” Herbert said.
“Cole (Keller) does not back down from anyone and the physical play he faces. The first half Cole did not miss a shot and ended up with 23 points. That tells all you need to know about the type of competitor he is.”
The fourth quarter witnessed five lead changes or ties. The pace was frantic as Yung, Herbert, and Hart all hit big shots or free throws for their team. William Chrisman’s execution in the final minutes proved to be the difference in the game. Grain Valley (6-13) faces a hectic week of their schedule as they approach the end of February basketball. The Eagles are scheduled to face Truman, Belton, and Odessa prior to Class 4, District 14 Tournament starting on February 27th.
Senior guard Jayden Yung successfully drive the lane to score a layup.
Photo credit: Valley News staff
Senior forward Cole Keller pivots in the low post to score a basket.
Photo credit: Valley News staff