by Michael Smith
It was dead silent.
Grain Valley senior Grace Slaughter was fouled and made a left-handed layup early in the fourth period in Thursday’s girls basketball contest with Lee’s Summit North.
It was almost as if the crowd at Grain Valley high School knew something special was going to happen.
That’s exactly what happened as Slaughter made her free throw and veteran head coach Randy Draper called a timeout. After that, it was announced that Slaughter scored her 2,000th career point, joining a small list of players in the history of Missouri high school girls basketball to accomplish that feat.
She scored a game-high 30 points as the Eagles thumped the Broncos 68-33.
The Grain Valley cheerleaders held up a banner with the number 2,000 on it. The crowd cheered and Slaughter high fived her teammates. After the game, she signed an autograph for a young fan and a fellow student handed her a printout to commemorate her 2,000th point.
“I didn’t know about it and didn’t know if I was close,” Slaughter said. “These things are just a number. It’s just a fun thing to do. I wouldn’t be able to do this without my teammates. We’ve been working so hard in practice and have been working on putting the pieces together.”
The print had a custom made video game cover that had “Grace2K” on it with a photo of the senior shooting a reverse layup. The cover was a spin off the popular NBA2K video game series that has been around since 2001.
Draper called Slaughter “special”, and he was in awe of the feat that the talented forward was able to accomplish.
“She missed some of last year and still got there,” Draper said. “To be on that list is special and she didn’t know she was. It was great. It was a surprise to her. Two-thousand is a ridiculous amount of points.”
Slaughter is someone who is in the gym constantly working on her game. She often comes to the Grain Valley High School gym after a wrestling, volley or boys basketball event and gets some shots in. She is someone who dedicates a bulk of her time getting better at basketball.
So what is it that motivates her to work so hard and so often on her game?
“A couple of quotes stick out to me and one is from ( former Boston Celtics plater and Basketball Hall of Famer) Larry Bird,” Slaughter said. “I remember him saying, ‘There is always someone out there working.’ I just want to do the same thing.”
“Another quote is from Jordan Roundtree. She played at Mizzou. She got asked if she sometimes gets nervous when she is on the court. She said, ‘You don’t get nervous if you work on everything and you prepare for the games.’ I just have that mindset to do everything I can to prepare for the games.”
That hard work has paid off as she will likely enter the top 15 list for career points scored in Missouri history. Slaughter now has 2,009 points. She needs just 144 more points to pass Gracee Smith of Arcadia Valley for 15th on the all-time list. She is on pace to do that in just five games.
North made things tough for Slaughter in the first half as the Broncos held her to just nine points in the first 16 minutes. Two to three Broncos were guarding Slaughter in the paint any time she caught the ball. There were even a few times when the senior was getting double teamed when she didn’t have the ball.
“I have been seeing that sometimes,” Slaughter said of getting double teamed off ball. “For our girls to be able to hit their outside shots make a big difference. That doesn’t allow them to guard us like that.”
Even with the North defense hyper focused on stopping Slaughter, Grain Valley still led 13-11 after the first period and 24-13 at halftime, With the attention Slaughter was getting that helped players like juniors Annabelle Totta and McKenah Sears to get open looks. Totta added nine points while Sears had eight.
In the third period the Eagles pulled away as Slaughter scored nine points in the frame, including a layup at the buzzer to make it 50-27. She then exploded for 12 points in the fourth period, including the conventional 3-point play that got the senior to 2,000 points.
Meanwhile, Grain Valley defense was firing on all cylinders, too, as the Eagles held the talented Broncos duo of Elauni and Emani Bennett to just nine points combined.
“We prepared for them,” Slaughter said of guarding the Bennett sisters. “Just watching film. We thought that maybe the others weren’t as strong of shooters as them, so we focused on them on defense. We double teamed them a little bit and we always helped off to them whether they were dragging or shooting.”
Grain Valley senior Grace Slaughter, right, scored her 2,000th career point and had a game-high 30 points in a 68-33 rout of Lee's Summit North Thursday at home. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley senior Grace Slaughter gets high fives from her teammates after it is announced that she scored her 2,000th point. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley junior Annabelle Totta tries to drive by a Lee's Summit North defender. Photo credit: Michael Smith