by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles basketball team took care of business during the opening round of the Sonic Showdown basketball tournament on January 25th. Sophomore point guard Grace Slaughter led all scorers during the contest with 32 points as her 2nd seeded Grain Valley team dispatched the 7th seeded Oak Park Lady Oakies by a score of 63-33.
Lady Eagles head basketball coach Randy Draper used a carousel of defenses that included full court press, man to man, and the 1-3-1 zone to stymy the Lady Oakies offense. The formula worked as Oak Park was held scoreless during the first quarter. Sophomore guard Maddie Moore got her shot going as the game progressed and was Oak Park’s leading scorer with 10 points.
Grain Valley found success attacking their opponents 2-3 zone defense by consistent movement without the basketball, driving the lane, and passing to open shooters behind the arc. Finley LaForge, Jordyn Weems, and Emma Thiessen were among the Lady Eagles who joined Slaughter in finding success behind the three point line.
Another attribute of Grain Valley’s success was the rebounding and post scoring of Gabbi Keim and Ella Clyman. Both used box out positioning under the boards to arrive at successful outcomes in retrieving missed shots. Clyman would pull down 9 boards to go with her 6 points, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Keim would add 5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals as well.
“Our goal as a team is to get after it from the start of the game. We followed our plan on defense and pushed the ball on offense (in transition). This was fun tonight,” Weems said.
Clyman added, “Our intensity was apparent tonight. We were quick moving the ball and that led to open looks.”
Slaughter concluded, “My parents always remind me that if one thing is not working, you have to go to something else. My three point shot came on after I got my drive going to the lane. Open looks outside then allowed for entry passes to the post. All those things led to our success.”
The all-around solid team effort permitted Draper to empty his bench with 5:42 left in the 4th quarter. Varsity starters for the Lady Eagles turned into a raucous bunch on the bench cheering on their teammates. The reward of rest and getting to be vocal was well received in a showing of team unity.
“Our teammates are awesome for us and we enjoyed cheering for them late in the game. They give their all in practice to make us better,” Weems said.
Clyman continued, “We are all family. Those on the court towards the end of the game work their butts off in practice. It is cool to see them have success.”
Slaughter finished, “I am super proud of them. We are not nice to each other in practice. It is in an effort to make us all better. We love each other and watching them (my teammates) grow is fun.”
Among those smiling from the bench was Draper. Smacking his knee and jovial head nodding were among the dead giveaways demonstrating Draper’s approval of his team’s effort. The maturation of his young varsity basketball team could not come at a better time as February basketball is fast approaching.
“Our press defense got us off to a good start in getting us some easy baskets and disrupting them (Oak Park). We were able to play at the pace we prefer. The movement of the basketball continues to improve for us as well. It is making our zone offense better,” Draper said.
“We got some kids in at the end of the game that are good basketball players. That last group played like they need to and had fun doing it. There was a point tonight I looked at the bench behind me and asked if they were alright due to the noise they were making for us on the floor. This team gets it. They have fun being together and it makes my job great.”
“It is hard to keep Grace (Slaughter) from scoring. I like her mindset. She knew she was going to get going. Some players miss two straight shots, and they stop. Grace went and got some shots close to the basket. That turned around her shot from deep.”
The Lady Eagles improve to a 9-3 record on the season with the victory. Competition in the Grain Valley Sonic Showdown basketball tournament will continue the week of January 25th.
Sophomore point guard Grace Slaughter sinks a free throw. Photo credit: Valley News staff
Pictured left to right: Jordyn Weems, Grace Slaughter, Ella Clyman. Photo credit: Valley News staff
Senior guard Jordyn Weems steals the basketball. Photo credit: Valley News staff