by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles basketball team opened the Pleasant Hill Basketball Tournament with a win over the Pembroke Hill Raiders, 71-44 on January 11th. The Lady Eagles opened the game with full court pressure that led to turnovers and transition scoring opportunities for Grain Valley. The result was an 18-3 first quarter lead for the Lady Eagles that they continued to build on as the game progressed.
Sound floor spacing, movement without the basketball, decisive passing, and avoiding turnovers permitted the Lady Eagles to top the 70 point plateau. Furthermore, the Lady Eagles continue to grow in their ability to find open looks at the basket by being disciplined offensively. This feat is significant as seven Grain Valley freshmen and sophomores saw significant playing time on the court during the contest.
Grain Valley sophomore point guard Grace Slaughter led all scorers with 35 points, to which she added 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. A strong supporting cast around Slaughter included fellow sophomore Ella Clyman and freshman McKenah Sears. Clyman would add 9 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. Sears would have one of her strongest outings during her young varsity career. The freshman’s stat line included 5 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block.
“We came out ‘boom’ ready to play, and wanted to attack being on who we were to defend. We have worked a lot in practice on full court press and denying passing lanes when applying pressure,” Slaughter said.
“Ball movement tonight was big in us getting the looks we did (at the basket). I am proud of my team and how we played.”
Clyman added, “My hustle tonight was the contribution I made to our win. Boxing out led us to be good on the boards. Our intensity and willingness to work as a team was fun to watch.”
Sears concluded, “My faith in the Lord has led to the growth in my abilities. My teammates supporting me has been huge as well. They are always there for me. I am learning that when I drive (to the basket) there will be people open like Grace and Ella. Coach (Randy) Draper puts us in the correct spot as well.”
Lady Eagles head basketball coach Randy Draper was satisfied with how his team performed as the second seed in the tournament against the seventh seed Raiders. Draper acknowledged that the youth of his team contributes in different ways with the bottom line being that they are connected by being basketball players who enjoy the game.
“The press we started the game with tonight was predetermined, but it’s something that I like to do anyway. The mindset of it pushes our team to be engaged and on point from the outset,” Draper said.
“The growth and belief in themselves that the youth of this team is displaying is special. Our hope has always been that we would keep marching and that everyone would move forward. Tonight, was a good gauge that members of this team are making big steps (of progress), and they will need to continue as our competition ahead will be tough.”
Draper added, “Grace is hard to guard, because of the dilemma of who do you guard her with. She can post, drive, and pull up from long and intermediate ranges. She is not fun to guard. Our offense continues to grow in that we are not playing to her (Slaughter), instead we are playing through her. There’s a difference, and if we continue to do that, things will continue to be good for us.”
The Lady Eagles improve to 5-3 on the season with their win. The Pleasant Hill Basketball Tournament continues with the consolation game on January 14th and the Championship game on January 15.