by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Eagles Boys Basketball team struggled to contain Kearney’s Brennan Watkins along with finding their stride offensively during their 64-49 loss on Tuesday, February 4th. Watkins would pour in 27 points for the Bulldogs as he was efficient from both the three point and free throw lines.
Grain Valley worked hard to find open looks offensively only to have a figurative lid appear to be on the basket with a fair share of shots bouncing off the rim for a second consecutive game.
The Eagles work on the offensive and defensive boards produced limited shots for Kearney and aided in second chance shots for Grain Valley’s offense. The hard work allowed the Eagles to go into halftime only trailing the Bulldogs by three points with the score 29-26.
It was clear that the message in the locker room during intermission was for the Eagles to attack the basket at the start of the second half. They did just that with determined drives to the hoop early in the third quarter. It looked as if this would put Kearney in a bind as they accumulated fouls and Grain Valley was in the bonus at the charity stripe for a good part of the third and fourth quarters.
The Eagles would amass empty offensive possessions down the stretch that padded Kearney’s lead as they pulled away for the win.
Eagles Head Basketball Coach Andy Herbert reflected on his team’s effort against their conference foe after the game.
“It’s a taxing effort to guard the Watkins kid from Kearney. I thought Caden (Matlon) did a good job on him for us. We had other guys help as well. However, when Kearney’s supporting cast shoots the ball the way they did, it makes things tough,” Herbert said.
“I didn’t think our defensive awareness was good enough away from the ball and that bit us. There are enough challenges when you have to guard a kid who scores an average of 28 points a game like Watkins does. He’s good. He can score by stepping back, he can get to the basket, and he makes free throws. He’s a very good high school player that’s just a junior.”
Senior Josh Kilpatrick was the leading scorer for the Eagles with 19 points to go with his 9 rebounds. He was bolstered by Senior Guard Tristin Whitton who contributed 6 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals.
Whitton consistently played hard throughout the game and refused to concede defeat in the second half.
“I tried to gamble when it came to me getting the steals. I waited until they put the ball on the ground in their dribble and was able to come away with the basketball a few times. The assists came by me keeping my eyes up and getting my teammates the ball when they were open,” Whitton said.
“Of all the things we did tonight, I think we pushed the ball well. The second half saw us attack the basket. That stopped the clock at times as we wanted to slow down the game. We have to play better on defense by not letting people drive by us as we move further into February basketball.”
The Eagles Boys Basketball team will resume play when they travel to face the Smithville Warriors in a Suburban Conference matchup on Friday, February 7th.