by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles basketball team dropped a close game late to the Belton Pirates on December 8th by a score of 37-33. Despite a strong effort by the Lady Eagles to obtain and extend their lead in the second and third quarters of the contest, it was not enough to hold of the surge by the Pirates who put up 20 of their 33 overall points in the second half in route to their win.
Belton was led by forward Kyndal Lewis who scored 18 points. The athleticism on display by Lewis allowed her to be a dual threat in driving the lane and scoring underneath the basket. Play was stopped during the second half to honor Lewis in surpassing 1,000 career points at Belton.
Grain Valley worked hard to turn the tide of momentum attained by Belton, with the Pirates going on a 12-2 run to start the game. Eagles sophomore point guard Grace Slaughter started her first game of the season and heated up from beyond the arc by scoring 9 points in the final four minutes of the 1st quarter.
The Lady Eagles would continue to claw their way back due to adjustments made by Grain Valley head basketball coach Randy Draper. Grain Valley would rotate in and out of a 1-3-1 zone at the start of the second quarter. The defensive switch by Draper made Belton space the floor more offensively and permitted the Lady Eagles to play better help defense as Belton attacked the rim. Furthermore, Grain Valley also refused to give Belton easy looks at the basket and would commit fouls in making the Pirates earn points at the free throw line.
Offensively, Draper also encouraged movement without the basketball through the lane in looking for open post players. This also opened windows for Slaughter to drive the baseline or shoot from behind the three point stripe based on if the Pirate defense collapsed to support down low.
Slaughter would go on to score 19 points to team with her 4 rebounds and 1 steal. The paint would be patrolled by the Eagles with senior Gabbi Keim and sophomore Ella Clyman. Keim would produce 8 points in the post to go along with her 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Clyman would use footwork and body positioning to pull down 9 rebounds that helped contribute to her 4 points.
Both Slaughter and Clyman indicated a desire to get back into the gym after the loss and work to help the team improve.
“Boxing out tonight was a collective team effort that helped me get a fair share of boards. The outcome wasn’t what we wanted tonight, but we never game up and tried our best until the end,” Clyman said.
“We are going to get back in the gym and work even harder. We know what we need to work on after this game. We will come back excited to play them (Belton) again.”
Slaughter added, “It felt great tonight to get back out there with my teammates. This was not the outcome we wanted, but Belton is an amazing team with a lot of talent. We will learn from this game, and that starts by what we do when get back to practice.”
“My shot was there to start the game. During the second half it got kind of cold though. That’s alright because we started finding Ella and Gabbi more on the inside and they scored some layups.”
“We will watch some film and push ourselves moving forward to get better.”
Getting better was a mantra that Draper focused on as well after the game. Draper’s disappointment was tempered by his optimistic look of what the future potentially holds for his team this season.
“We changed defensively during the game because we let them get to the basket too many times. Offensively, we need to find some ways to score more points. Part of that is us not being impatient or committing turnovers,” Draper said.
“Clyman is physical and we count on her down low for her a rebounding presence. We will continue to find ways to get the five correct pieces on the floor as it is early in the season.”
“Having Grace (Slaughter) back on the floor changes our team. In particular, the way we are guarded. She has to get her feet back under her, and she will as she is a great player.”
Draper concluded, “I am ready to go back to practice and solve what pieces need to be on the floor together. I am confident as we move forward that we will improve as a team.”
Grain Valley (0-2) will next host the Kearney Bulldogs at 7:00 pm on December 14th.