by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles held the basketball after passing midcourt with 45 seconds left in the game. Head basketball coach Randy Draper’s squad had led the contest from start to finish. However, they had overcome foul trouble, an athletic Truman Patriots squad, and successfully sank enough free throws to secure a 59-41 victory over a Suburban Conference foe on February 20th.
The Lady Eagles had edged out a tight victory by a score of 48-45 over the Patriots back on December 17th. The increased margin of victory reflects the growth that Draper’s young team continues to display as the season progresses. The excitement was apparent in the tone of Draper’s voice standing outside the gym at Truman High School.
“Grace (Slaughter) is not your typical sophomore. We talked after the game and her fourth foul is a foul she cannot get. Slaughter was mature in how she approached the game once she went back in during the fourth quarter,” Draper said.
“We had a lot of kids help us and that was fun. (Cameryn) Bown had a good night. (Finley) LaForge has really changed us in how she is shooting the basketball. It is good to see that as those two work hard at this and take a lot of extra shots in the gym.”
Draper continued, “There is nothing like playing to get you used to the pace of varsity basketball. When you are open and not open. Kids learn to anticipate what to do before they catch the basketball. You figure out you have to be ready once you catch the basketball or it ain’t getting off against athletic teams.”
“With Grace getting so much attention defensively, it buys her teammates a little extra time as a shooter. I like the direction we are headed. We stayed true to our defensive rules against the athleticism we faced. Most of the time it turned out well for us.”
Truman had a trio of scorers in guards Urya’ Williams, Taliyah Scott, and Layla Scott that effectively used the “five out” offensive set under the direction of Patriots head coach Jim Page to find isolation matchups in driving to the basket. The result was Williams finishing with 11 points, Taliyah Scott with 14 points, and Layla Scott with 13 points.
Grain Valley would counter with a double-double from Slaughter who had 22 points to go along with her 11 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 steals. LaForge would chip in a trio of three pointers and a made free throw for a total of 10 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists. Bown was also active on the perimeter in scoring 10 points as well to go with a rebound, an assist, and 2 steals.
The Lady Eagles would go 16 from 22 from the charity stripe during the game. The 72.7 percent average from the free throw line was an influencing factor in putting the game out of reach for Truman as the second half wound down. Slaughter, Bown, and Jordyn Weems would all effectively manage the four fouls they accumulated. LaForge and forward Ella Clyman did the same as they found themselves with three fouls each in the final quarter as well.
More importantly, Grain Valley had an answer offensively each time Truman cut into their lead. Freshman McKenah Sears took a charge under the Patriot basket with 6:55 remaining in the second quarter that led to her team scoring on the other end and widening her team’s five point margin. Truman would cut Grain Valley’s lead to 3 points by a score of 30-27 with 5:29 left in the third quarter after a made three pointer by Williams. LaForge and Bown would both answer back with made shots from behind the arc in subsequent possessions by the Lady Eagles, expanding Grain Valley’s lead to 36-27.
“This was a great team win. We knew it would take our best effort. I made sure to do my part. The speed of the game has slowed down for me,” Bown said.
LaForge added, “We expected them (Truman) to play with passion because we barely won the last time we faced them. It was tight and we watched a lot of film to prepare. The release on my outside shot is getting quicker and that is awesome as it gives me more time, even if I am not as open. I am happy when we can take pressure off Grace as a scorer.”
Slaughter finished, “Going into the third quarter I only had one foul. I was attentive on the bench in watching the game once I picked up my fourth foul. That made me realize that I needed to play off of my opponent more. It let me be calm when I went back onto the floor.”
“We executed some things well today that we had been working on in practice against the spread out zone that Truman played. It allowed us to get Cameryn (Bown) and Finley (LaForge) open from the outside. That permits for the post to be less congested and we can start feeding the ball back inside. We played to our potential tonight.”
Grain Valley (11-6) embarks on a busy stretch of their schedule as they are set to play Belton and Raytown next prior to the opening of the Class 6, District 14 Tournament on February 27th.
Sophomore guard Cameryn Bown makes a free throw.
Photo credit: Valley News staff
Sophomore Grace Slaughter wins the opening tip off of the basketball game.
Photo credit: Valley News staff