by John Unrein
A custody battle broke out over the Show-Me Missouri shaped Class 4, District 14 Girls Basketball trophy after the Lady Eagles 58-39 victory over the Center Yellowjackets on March 6th. Seniors Keely Hill and Savannah Scott took turns removing the prize from one another’s arms before embracing it as the team celebrated the victory with family and friends at Oak Grove High School.
The scene was jovial and well deserved as the Grain Valley Lady Eagles fought hard for their come from behind victory. Hill’s 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks were just icing on the cake for someone who was most concerned about her team continuing to advance in the playoffs.
“There were some nerves at the beginning. I didn’t want this to be my last game. I played my heart out, and it turned out well for us. We played the best we’ve played all year tonight,” Hill said.
“Center is a very good rebounding team. Their post players are strong, and I felt it was my duty to influence shots and get as many rebounds as I could.”
Freshman Grace Slaughter also used the court as a stage to turn in an impressive performance in helping her team to victory. Slaughter would collect 35 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal. Lady Eagles Head Basketball Coach Randy Draper shared a hug with Slaughter after the game as both smiled from ear to ear.
“Tonight, was so much fun. We were all shaking before the game with nerves. That pushed us to want to win even more. At halftime, we were down by one point (22-21). We felt better than the score as a group,” Slaughter said.
“The second half we came out on fire. We moved the basketball and made a couple of important three point baskets. This win is so enjoyable after a great night of basketball.”
Grain Valley indeed did have a strong start to the second half. They went on an 8-3 run during the first four minutes of the third quarter that allowed them to capture a lead they would not relinquish.
One of the key ingredients to the Eagles second half success was finding an answer to slow down Center Guard Lisa Thomas. The senior for the Yellowjackets was her team’s leading scorer with 25 points.
Center’s scoring momentum was halted at the 7:30 mark of the fourth quarter by Eagles Guard Cameryn Bown who drew a charge against Thomas under the Center basket. Bown would go on to make three important plays across the next three minutes of the fourth quarter that would keep the Yellowjackets off the scoreboard.
Bown followed her defensive stop against Thomas with an assist to Slaughter under the basket with six minutes left in the game that continued to stretch the Eagles lead. The 5’ 6” freshman would also force a jump ball and secure a rebound on a strong box out at the 3:00 minute mark of the fourth quarter prior to fouling out.
Bown’s physical play was an inspiration to her teammates and head coach.
“In the second half, we did what we do best. Our defense was great. Grace (Slaughter) is hard to guard. We thought too much in the first half and played hard instead in the second half,” Draper said.
“Cameryn’s (Bown) effort was big for us tonight as well. We’ve been working with her in practice on how to handle to pressure and double teams. Our hope has been that her athletic ability would take over and the stress would go away for her.”
Draper concluded, “Bown’s three pointer early in the game helped our scoring. That charge she took in the fourth quarter though was huge. The box out for the rebound was a physical effort as well.”
Bown was pleased with her efforts and what they yielded in helping her team advance.
“I knew we didn’t want this to be our last game and I wanted the seniors to keep playing. I wanted to give my best effort so this team could win,” Bown said.
The District title win for the Eagles pushed their record to 19-7 for the season. The senior leadership of Hill and Scott combined with the youth on Grain Valley’s roster continue to be a recipe for success.
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles Basketball team celebrates Class 4, District 14 Championship.
Photo credit: John Overstreet
Freshman Grace Slaughter drives to the basket.
Photo credit: John Overstreet
Freshman Cameryn Bown sinks a three point shot from beyond the arc.
Photo credit: Valley News staff