by John Unrein
As Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline could be heard blaring down the hall from the Grain Valley Lady Eagles Basketball locker room, Head Coach Randy Draper couldn’t contain his smile. There was no doubt a boisterous celebration taking place behind closed doors by his players. The Eagles had just capped a thrilling overtime victory against the visiting Grandview Bulldogs by a score of 67-57.
“Our kids focused well tonight. The band was loud, and the crowd was awesome. It was a great atmosphere for a high school basketball game. It’s funny that the louder things got, the better we played in the last quarter and overtime,” Draper said.
“I appreciated our toughness. (Jordyn) Weems and (Malia) Guttierrez did a excellent job against Cierra Smith for them (Grandview). She still managed to score an abundance of points. However, there were a few things we tweaked and tightened up at the end that made a difference defensively for us.”
Smith was a handful much of the game for the Eagles. The Sophomore Guard for the Bulldogs would lead all scorers with 41 points. Much of Smith’s success came from making good decisions at the top of the pick and roll offense deployed by Grandview.
Draper and his staff made a defensive change with 3:00 left in the 4th quarter that paid dividends in stopping Smith. Both Weems and Guttierrez started coming underneath the pick and anticipating the side in which Smith would dribble.
This permitted the Eagles to stop her advance and get a hand in her face when she shot. The adjustment limited Smith’s ability to score for the remainder of the contest.
Freshmen Grace Slaughter and Ella Clyman led the Eagles offense. Slaughter was Grain Valley’s top scorer with 33 points and 4 rebounds. She was backed by Clyman, who contributed 15 points and 10 rebounds in their team’s winning effort.
Slaughter was dominant during overtime as she would tally 10 of the 12 points scored by the Eagles in the extra period. The memory of the first time Grain Valley played Grandview was still fresh in Slaughter’s mind and spurred her efforts.
“I kept replaying the first time we played them (Grandview) in my head. It was not a pretty game against a conference opponent. We knew coming out tonight that they were going to be physical and aggressive. I knew we could perform better and wanted to play full throttle,” Slaughter said.
Slaughter was also impressed by the defensive efforts of her teammate, 5’2” Senior Guard Savannah Scott. The Eagles Court Warming Queen, who was honored at halftime, would go on to make 3 key steals during the game. Two of those steals occurred by Scott during overtime and helped the Eagles stretch their lead late.
“Everyone on this team has a role. Savannah (Scott) plays hers very well. She came up big tonight with the two steals in overtime. People may underestimate her because of her size, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of the type of player she is,” Slaughter said.
Clyman was equally as happy with what her team was able to accomplish. The young post player for the Eagles was not intimidated by the physical play occurring under the basket.
“I’m glad I could help my team win. I tried my best. It was fun watching us overcome and win late. I will give a lot of credit to Keely (Hill). Her boxing out (for rebound positioning) helped me secure some boards. We worked our butts off tonight,” Clyman said.
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles Basketball team improves to a 15-7 record as they move closer to Missouri Class 4, District 14 Tournament competition.