by Michael Smith
With the Grain Valley girls basketball team having senior Grace Slaughter leading a high-powered offense with her 30 points per game, the team’s defense is something that could be overlooked.
The Eagles defense has been good in the 2022-23 season as they have surrendered just 39.6 points per game.
It was certainly on point in Monday’s Suburban White Conference matchup with Belton as Grain Valley held its opponent to single digits in three out of four quarters and forced 14 pirate turnovers in the first half as it cruised to a 68-25 victory at home.
“We did a little bit of both (man-to-man and zone defense), but we really trust each other,” Grain Valley senior Ella Clyman said. “If someone goes by a person, we have help coming.”
The Eagles (5-1, 1-0) used a full-court press to force turnovers and the defense in the halfcourt was solid as the team often kept their defenders in front of them and made it difficult for the Pirates to get to the basket on the dribble drive.
“Our team defense is pretty good,” head coach Randy Draper said. “They just play hard, and they are good athletes. They know what they are doing. We just have to keep getting better. The people we will be playing are hard to guard. We can’t relax and we have to be the best block out team around.”
Belton started out hot in the first period, making its first two shots, but Grain Valley held it to two points for the rest of the period as the Eagles took a 24-7 lead into the second period led by 14 points from Slaughter, which included her getting around a defender on the fast break using a Eurostep.
The Grain Valley defense was even better in the second quarter, limiting the Pirates to just five points. The team outscored Belton 21-5, which was highlighted by McKenah Sears’ rebound and putback at the buzzer as her team went into halftime up 43-12.
“I knew time was running down so I knew I had to get it off as quickly as I could,” Sears said. “And I knew I needed to crash the boards. That’s part of my job. I went and crashed the boards and it ended up in my hands and I timed it right.”
The Eagles ballooned the lead to 64-26 in the third as Draper emptied the bench with 3 minutes left in the period led by Slaughter’s nine points.
While Slaughter led the team with 31 points, six rebounds and two steals, she got plenty of help from her teammates. Clyman had a good game as scored 11 points and had three steals. Sears chipped in with 10 points and two steals. Meghan Knust also was tied for the team lead with three steals.
“McKenah is starting to do stuff for us,” Draper said of Sears. “We need her to be a basketball player – score, rebound, handle the ball, just to be able to do everything. In the last two games, she has been arriving. She’s been huge for us.
“Clyman had double digits scoring and she might be the best block out player in our program history.”
Grain Valley's Grace Slaughter drives to the basket for a layup during a 68-35 win over Belton Monday. She had a game-high 31 points.
Grain Valley junior Ava Bollinger drives to the basket. Photo credit: Michael Smith