by Michael Smith
The second quarter was not an ideal one for the Grain Valley boys basketball team in the finals of the Pleasant Hill Tournament.
After storming out to a 20-8 lead after one period against Kansas City Central, the shooting went cold for Grain Valley as it shot just 2-for-13 in the second period.
That allowed the Blue Eagles to come back and tie the game at 26-all at halftime. It was a back-and-forth affair from there with each team trading the lead multiple times and neither team leading by more than seven points.
It was the trio of seniors Owen Herbert and Rhylan Alcanter and freshman Eli Herbert that led the charge for the Eagles. Combining for 63 points as the Eagles defeated Central 67-61 to win Friday at Pleasant Hill High School.
After a sluggish second quarter, Alcanter high fived all his teammates and played with high intensity throughout the contest. He finished with a double-double, totaling 21 points and 10 rebounds. He was the high-energy guy and vocal leader for the Eagles (9-5), constantly communicating on defense and helping get his teammates in the right position.
“Somebody’s got to be the guy who gets in the other team’s head,” said Alcanter, who also dished out a little trash talk on the court. “I am more than happy to do that. I am not scared of anybody.”
Alcanter got lob passes from his teammates and finished layups consistently on the low block. That helped open up opportunities for Grain Valley to get open looks from behind the 3-point line.
“I am grateful for all of my guards,” Alcanter said. “I can’t name any games where I didn’t get that good pass almost every time. They knew what was working and they made sure that they did it.”
Owen and Eli Herbert were among the Eagles who took advantage of the attention Alcanter drew in the paint.
Owen Herbert helped close the game out for the Eagles as he hit 5 out of 6 free throws in the final two minutes to help Grain Valley secure the win. He also made a trio of three pointers and scored 16 points and dished out three assists.
“That’s what he’s been doing for three years,” Grain Valley head coach Andy Herbert said of Owen’s ability to consistently make 3-point shots. “That’s been his role. We expect that from him, that consistency and his leadership.”
Eli Herbert put in a game-high 26 points, which included six 3-pointers, some of which came from 5 to 6 feet behind the 3-point line. Eli has a shot similar to two-time Most Valuable Player and four-time NBA Finals champion Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors. He has a quick release on his shot and has a near-perfect follow through at the peak of his jump. He’s found success with it.
“Watching (Steph Curry) really helped and just having that consistency every time,” Eli said. “Especially against the older guys, who have to learn to get that shot off quicker. (The 25-plus foot shots) are something that I work on every day. You have to work on it in practice so it’s no different in the game.”
Andy Herbert has given Eli the green light to take threes five to six feet behind the arc due to him working on it so much in practice.
“It’s not a stretch and it’s not forced,” Andy Herbert said of Eli’s long shots. “It’s like, ‘If you’re going to leave me open, then OK.’ He’s in the gym a lot. That consistency doesn’t come by accident.”
Like his older brother Owen, he came up big in the fourth quarter, making all six of his free-throw attempts.
The Eagles started out hot in the first period as they made 4 out of 7 3-pointers and shot 8-for-11 from the field to take a 20-8 lead after one. Central stormed back as Timothy Wooden scored nine points in the frame to help his team tie it at 26-all going into halftime.
Both teams traded the lead five times in the third period but Eli Herbert exploded for 14 points in the period, including four 3-pointers. He hit a three just before time expired in the frame as Grain Valley took a 51-47 advantage into the final quarter.
“It’s because we got the ball to (Alcanter),” Herbert said of how the Eagles regained the lead. “We were able to get him going and he was able to kick it out to us.”
Central came back to tie the game at 53-all after a 6-2 run that was capped by a steal and fast-break dunk from Brandon Moore. Alcanter answered with a conventral 3-point play after a rebound and putback. The Eagles led for the test of the contest as the free-throw shooting of the Herbert brothers put it away.
The Grain Valley boys basketball team displays their plaque after taking first place in the Pleasant Hill Tournament following a 67-61 win over Kansas City Central. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley senior Rhylan Alcanter shakes the hand of a Pleasant Hill administrator to receive his medal for making the all-tournament team. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley freshman Eli Herbert looks to inbound the ball. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley junior Jack Schoen drives to the basket with Central's Timothy Wooden defending him. Photo credit: Michael Smith