by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Eagles boys basketball team pulled off a win in dramatic fashion against the Fort Osage Indians on January 22nd by a score of 45-43. Eagle forward Cole Keller would block the final shot of the game as time expired, doing so with four fouls and timing the rejection so that his follow through would not put the shooter on the foul line.
Joining Keller in late game heroics was Grain Valley guard Owen Herbert. The sophomore sank 2 three pointers late in the game along with making the back end of a two shot trip to the charity stripe to help seal the victory for the Eagles. “Ice Man” was a nickname being bounced around Herbert as he emerged from the visitor’s locker room after the game.
“I continue to work hard on my shot in getting my timing and rhythm down. I knew someone had to step up and took advantage of the open looks (at the basket). We’ve been working hard in practice on things that will help us win on the court,” Herbert said.
“I knew after I missed the front end of the two free throws late in the game that I let it go too hard on the first one and that I needed to take a deep breath and regroup. The second one went down. This was a big win for us on the road with our Sonic Showdown coming up.”
Herbert would finish the contest with 13 points. Keller led all scorers during the game and produced a double-double that consisted of 19 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 4 blocks. At no point during the game did Keller let his foul trouble affect his aggressive play. The senior was not bashful about the mindset leading to his determination.
“I got frustrated tonight because we’ve been in this situation before multiple times in the past and it has melted in our hands. When we slow down our focus and take it one possession at a time, things go so much better for us like they did in the first half tonight,” Keller said.
“They (Fort Osage) grabbed the rebound prior to the shot I blocked at the end. Someone needed to step up to make a play and it was my time. I am glad it ended that way.”
Keller’s frustration stemmed from Grain Valley struggling to keep the fifteen point lead they secured at the end of the first quarter. It was precipitated by the Eagles starting the game on an 11-2 run that forced Fort Osage to burn a timeout at the 3:30 mark of the opening period.
Senior guard Jayden Yung has transitioned to running the point for the Eagles. Yung’s handling of the basketball and the Eagles push in the transition game accounted for the early scoring that permitted the Grain Valley lead to hold.
Fort Osage under the direction of head coach Josh Wilson made valuable half time adjustments. The Indians came out of the locker room at the start of the 3rd quarter applying pressure to Yung on the inbound pass and denying outlet passes to the center and corners of the court as Grain Valley worked to defeat the press.
The Indians also spread the floor during the final two quarters to get open three point looks at the basket. Junior Trent Hogland would reward Wilson’s adjustment by scoring all 14 of his points in the second half, including 4 three pointers.
The stamina and determination displayed by the Eagles allowed them to turn back the momentum gained by the Indians in the second half. Grain Valley head basketball coach Andy Herbert conducted substitution by possession as the game progressed to keep the best matchup on the floor possible for his team. The reward for Herbert was his team scoring 28 of their 45 overall points in the second half.
“We had taken turns panicking. Owen (Herbert) was the right guy in the right place and his teammates found him late in the game. It was good for us to win tonight. We needed that,” Herbert said.
“We warned our guys at halftime that they were going to turn the heat up on us and that they would at some point start making more shots. We rode out their momentum and it was great for the youth of this team to get the victory.”
Herbert finished, “Jayden (Yung) was tremendous tonight attacking downhill and getting to the basket. That allowed us to be the aggressor. The mindset switched in the second half with us trying to hold on and prevent them from taking the lead. You rely on your seniors to step up and make plays in that moment. Yung has been our ‘X Factor,’ and as he goes, we go. Keller’s block was huge as well.”
“I am proud of our team. I have taught more in practice this season then I have in ten seasons probably. The hard work put in by this team has led to progress that does not always show up with wins and losses. Our team deserved this win tonight.”
Pictured left to right: Sophomore guard Owen Herbert, head coach Andy Herbert, senior Cole Keller. Photo credit: Valley News staff
Sophomore Keagan Hart looks to pass the ball to the post. Photo credit: Valley News staff