by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles Basketball team used defensive pressure and the point scoring trio of Grace Slaughter, Gabbi Keim, and Ella Clyman to defeat the Kearney Bulldogs by a score of 47-31 on December 14th.
Thievery was on display by the Lady Eagles as full court pressure and trapping the basketball led to 17 steals for the contest. Grain Valley guard Malia Gutierrez compiled 2 of her 4 steals for the game within the first 4 minutes of the 1st quarter. The Lady Eagles would secure a 13-9 lead by the end of the first quarter that they would not relinquish.
Grain Valley head basketball coach Randy Draper acknowledged that ratcheting up the defensive pressure was by design in an effort to get some easy baskets. It also made shooting looks for Kearney more difficult in forcing the Bulldogs to pick up their pace of offense.
“Our opponent shoots the ball well. The defensive pressure we applied prevented them from not being open exceptionally long. We were also able to score some baskets that we didn’t have to work too hard to get,” Draper said.
Kearney was able to keep the game within 4 points at halftime due to the accuracy of their three point shooting. Senior guard Kenzi Hoffman was the Bulldogs leading scorer with 9 points.
Slaughter for the Eagles led all scorers with 21 points. The sophomore point guard was effective in finding angles in driving to the basket to score for the Lady Eagles. Slaughter’s determination in getting to the rim also landed her on the charity stripe four times, of which she sank 6 of 8 free throw opportunities.
The stat sheet was rounded out by Slaughter with 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 5 steals. Slaughter confirmed that her legs are starting to get back underneath her and that she is becoming more comfortable on the floor offensively.
“We knew tonight that our defense was what we needed to pick up after the Belton game. It was a team effort to get the turnovers we created tonight,” Slaughter said.
“Yes, my legs were more there tonight. We wanted to move the ball better against a 2-3 zone after the Belton game. Our team was able to get that accomplished. Practice has proven that if we pass and I cut, then we can find post openings or an open outside shot.”
Grain Valley showed new offensive sets against Kearney and the 2-3 zone defense they deployed. A dribble weave around the top of the arc was among the new looks installed by Draper that got the ball more in the hands of Keim and Clyman in the post.
Keim continues to display footwork that enables her to attack with a left shoulder turn down low in the paint. The persistence by the senior forward led to 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 assist.
Clyman added 8 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals as well. An improved confidence in taking the open jump shot by Clyman was on exhibit by the sophomore forward. The benefit being for Grain Valley that their opponent had to stretch the interior wings of the 2-3 zone, opening further post positioning for the Lady Eagles.
“Our ball rotation with the new offensive sets we put in helped tonight. I have enjoyed seeing our progress from game to game as a team. We are unselfish with the basketball and that helps me in the post,” Keim said.
Draper was pleased with progress shown by his team during their win. A head coach is rarely satisfied, even after a win, knowing what they want to address moving forward to help the team improve.
“We are getting it fixed, but our movement hasn’t been good enough at times offensively. Avoiding being stagnant was one of the reasons we incorporated the dribble weave (on offense). It also helped us shoot better, as shooting the basketball is a rhythm game,” Draper said.
“We have encouraged Ella (Clyman) to shoot more. She has worked ridiculously hard to become a better shooter and we spoke to her tonight before the game about not being shy in taking advantage of her open looks.”
Draper concluded, “Boy, if we can get that from Clyman and Gabbi (Keim) continues, along with Grace (Slaughter), we are going to be able to hit you several different ways from outside in and vice versa.”
“Fouls typically happen at the basket and the offensive rebounding provided by Clyman and Keim helps us. Our opponent has to reach to recover and it gets us the free throw line.”
Grain Valley (1-2) will next host the Truman Patriots (1-3) at 7:00 pm on December 17th.
Sports coverage provided by Captain's Sports Lounge, opening in January in Grain Valley!