by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles Basketball team used two big offensive surges in the first and second halves to help secure their 52-28 win against the Oak Grove Panthers on March 2nd in a Class 4, District 14 Tournament matchup.
Oak Grove started the game defensively in a 2-3 zone packed tight near the lane. Their objective was to force Grain Valley to shoot over the top of them without letting anyone have easy looks inside. The strategy was effective early on, holding the Eagles to a one point lead by a score of 14-13 with five minutes left in the second quarter.
Grain Valley Lady Eagles Head Basketball Coach Randy Draper refused to have the game be dictated to him on someone else’s terms. The Eagles countered Oak Grove’s defensive strategy by centering the basketball at the top of the key and sending Freshman Grace Slaughter off the wing as a cutter to the basket.
The change garnered positive results for the Eagles. Grain Valley went on a 9-0 run from the five minute mark to the three minute mark of the second quarter. It also permitted them to head into halftime with a ten point lead by a score of 25-15.
Slaughter ended the game with 22 points, becoming the Lady Eagles all-time single season scorer with 579 points so far this season. Slaughter also added 7 steals, 4 assists, and 3 rebounds to her stat line. Quick hands permitted Slaughter to take the ball from the opponent she was guarding on several occasions.
When asked about the scoring record, Slaughter used the moment to offer thanks to others that have supported her.
“I think we all wanted to come out and make sure that we wouldn’t be going home after our first District game. The scoring record is special because it wouldn’t have happened without my teammates, coaches, and parents. It means everything for my Mom to be a part of this because we are extremely close. She’s always positively pushing me, even if I don’t want to hear it,” Slaughter said.
Draper approached his team at halftime and wanted to know if they had enough in the tank to apply full court pressure in the second half. He received a resounding “yes.” The vote of confidence by the team cleared the way for them to go on a 14-0 run in the first four minutes of the second half by creating multiple turnovers that resulted in easy baskets going the other way.
The combined two offensive waves by the Eagles yielded a net result of 23 points. That ended up nearly being the margin of victory for Grain Valley who ended up on top by 24 points.
Draper was enthusiastic in sharing his response when asked about his team’s will to push past the Panthers.
“We worked on getting better spacing offensively as the game progressed. We were doing what they wanted us to do early on. Patience allowed us to get the ball to (Grace) Slaughter. We talked to her about anticipating being double teamed when she received the ball. She did a good job of recognizing if she was open or closed and either passing the basketball or scoring,” Draper said.
“I was proud of us because when it got to a one point margin, and you’re the one seed, and it’s your first District game, if you wanted to panic it was sitting there for you. Instead, we got back to what we do best. (Ella) Clyman gave a great effort as well tonight. We are starting to get two or three positive scoring options past Slaughter and that changes us.”
Draper concluded, “Our press in the third quarter was as good as you can do it. I’m glad they voted to get after it in the locker room prior to the start of the second half. We look forward to our next opponent.”
Freshman Forward Clyman did yeomen’s work under the glass rebounding the basketball as an important member of the Eagles win. Clyman would finish with 8 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, and 4 steals in a tireless effort.
A portion of those rebounds came underneath the basket on free throws. Clyman at the bottom box of the lane turns her body towards the shooter. Upon release of the basketball, she rotates her body in front of the opponent next to her in securing box out position for the rebound.
Clyman credited Grain Valley Assistant Basketball Coach Pete Carpino along with other members of the coaching staff in helping her perfect the technique.
“I try my best to secure rebounds for my team so that we can score on as many possessions as possible.
Coach Carpino along with my other coaches have helped me become good at rebounding under the basket during free throws,” Clyman said.
“Playing as a team and playing fast is fun. We did it with high intensity. That allowed us to push through tonight.”
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles Basketball Team will play next on Friday, March 6th at 5:30 pm in Oak Grove.