by John Unrein
Lady Eagles head basketball coach Randy Draper was excited to pose for a picture with the three seniors on his roster following his team’s victory against the Fort Osage Indians by a score of 61-29 on February 12th. Malia Gutierrez, Jordyn Weems, and Gabbi Keim were recognized prior to the game for their contributions made to the team as seniors. Their reward was sweet on two fronts, with the victory in hand against a Suburban Conference opponent and the cake that was enjoyed in a socially distanced reception following the game.
Grain Valley was strong from the outset of the contest, winning the opening tip by Grace Slaughter, playing smothering defense, and continually looking inside the paint to score. Slaughter would lead all scorers in the contest with 34 points. The sophomore would add 7 rebounds, 1 steal, and 2 blocks to her stat line.
Slaughter attacked the basket relentlessly by driving to the hoop. The effort afforded her three trips to the free throw line during the contest. The Lady Eagles were efficient as usual in swinging the basketball on offense. Their decisiveness in doing so led to the team pulling the trigger quicker on when to shot or attack the basket.
Keim would add 5 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 5 steals while being highly active in the post. The senior move in from Wisconsin continues to display confidence in her quick hands that lead to turnovers going the other way for the Lady Eagles. Keim has been well received by her teammates and the feeling has been mutual.
Gutierrez and Weems continue to contribute to their team in a manner that may not always be noticeable. Both tend to draw the defensive assignment of guarding the other team’s best scorers under Draper’s leadership. A task that both Gutierrez and Weems enjoy and take pride in as players. Weems would contribute 5 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal in her team’s win. Gutierrez would put forth a well-timed assist and steal.
Draper took a deep breath and collected himself prior to acknowledging what this senior class means to him and his team on senior night.
“It’s funny about Gabbi, I feel like she’s been here for as long as anyone else on this team. It is really strange. It says a lot about her. It also says something about her teammates. She has fit right in, being a talented player who is unselfish. Our kids like winning and she has helped with that,” Draper said.
“Weems and Gutierrez have been with us for what feels like forever. They have started on a team that played in the state quarterfinals. They have enjoyed some pretty cool moments together.”
“Freshman who enter this program think that they have forever. I encourage them to talk to the seniors because it goes by so fast. We spend a lot of time talking about not wasting opportunities and not letting a day go by without practicing hard and being ready to play.”
Draper continued, “Those two (Weems and Gutierrez) are energy givers. They are tough and athletic. When we size up an opponent and pick out how we are going to guard people, we start with those two for a reason. We will miss the personality and ability of all three of our seniors.”
“Slaughter was fantastic tonight. We have worked as a team on our pace and I think was evident tonight. That frees things up for Grace as she can attack an opponent that is broken down (not set up to play at the other end of the court). Getting from ‘O’ to ‘D’ quicker will only continue to make us better.”
Slaughter would seek out each of her senior teammates after the contest to congratulate them and thank them for what they have done for Lady Eagles basketball. The sentiment was reciprocated towards Slaughter as Neil Diamond played over the speakers with the group exiting the court.
“Every game means a lot, but senior night is a must win. We left it out there on the floor. I will miss the pranks we play on each other,” Gutierrez said.
Weems added, “Senior Night means that the end is coming (of the season at some point), but that makes you realize you should play each game like it is your last.”
Keim continued, “Seeing our team come together is special. This underclass group has been very supportive of us as seniors. My team pumps me up. It has meant everything to move to a new school and be so accepted.”
Slaughter finished, “I cannot do any of this without my teammates. Draper has been pushing us in practice to get our speed up with the tempo of how we do things. We know his emphasis is for what’s coming in the remainder of our schedule. We want to continue to grow in how we score and defend.”
Junior guard Heather Chiesi would tally 7 points as the leading scorer for the Indians. Senior teammates Katelyn Ward and Brooklyn Gilpin would each add 6 points for Fort Osage in trying to keep pace with Grain Valley.
Grain Valley (10-5) will face Raytown and William Chrisman the week of February 15th.
Left to right: senior Jordyn Weems, senior Gabbi Keim, head basketball coach Randy Draper, and senior Malia Gutierrez. Photo credit: Valley News staff
Sophomore Grace Slaughter attempts a free throw. Photo credit: Valley News staff