by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles Basketball team fell short of recording 21 wins and advancing past the quarterfinal round of the playoffs with their 63-45 loss to the Lincoln College Prep Blue Tigers on March 14th.
A valiant effort was put forth by Grain Valley to overcome missed shots and the rebounding deficit they faced in the game. Freshman Grace Slaughter’s 24 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists combined with the senior leadership of Keely Hill and Savannah Scott were not enough to turn the scoreboard in favor of the Eagles.
Understandable emotion was on the faces of the Lady Eagles as they emerged from the locker room after the game.
“Emotion started to take over for me with a minute left in the game. I’ve had a fun four years. I got to do this (go on a playoff run) again, because I did it my freshman year too. It’s been amazing,” Hill said.
“I’m going to really miss (Coach) Draper and everybody that’s pushed me to become who I became my senior year.”
Scott added, “I know there are a lot of freshman on the team this year, so we have a lot of people that look up to us and I think that’s good. We’re good people that they can look up to and we’ll lead them in the right direction. Basketball is fun and it goes by fast.”
Lincoln Prep’s Ajanea Bradley was a handful for the Eagles to contain. Bradley earned frequent trips to the free throw line along with finishing at the hoop on drives to the basket. The stellar quickness and shooting touch displayed by Bradley allowed her to lead all scorers with 29 points.
Lady Eagles Head Basketball Coach Randy Draper was disappointed to see his team’s season come to an end. Draper has had noticeable fun this season on the sideline in coaching his young team.
“Every team’s goal is to dictate how the game will get played. We were great at that against Nevada in our previous game. We were hurried in this game and I think that was due to nerves, and I get it. That’s okay. It’s why you have to play these games so that you learn how it all feels and then the game slows down for you as you go, or your playing career progresses,” Draper said.
“I told this team I was honored to be their coach. They (Lincoln Prep) were part of the problem (with how they played defense) when it came our shooting. We didn’t have a great night shooting the basketball and missed some shoots we usually make.”
“Lincoln Prep also got after it on the glass rebounding. We didn’t do as well as we could’ve their either.”
Draper concluded with a tribute to his two seniors, “Savannah (Scott) brings a toughness to us that’s special. Especially, because she plays out of position. Her edge that she gives us in how she blocks out and sets screens is unique. I’m glad she got to a be part of this in her only varsity season.”
“Keely (Hill) is a four year varsity player. She’s sad right now because that’s the emotion you experience when something fun ends. I told them I never cried once at the end of Algebra. Hill does so much for our team in all the roles she plays. She’s a great defensive rebounder, influences shots, is a really good passer, and just knows how to play basketball.”
The future is bright for Draper’s program moving forward. Youth will be served in future seasons as Grain Valley’s varsity roster possesses two juniors and six freshmen. Part of that youth movement has been and will be Slaughter. The variety of roles she fulfills for the Eagles will only become more valuable as her skill set improves with age.
“The end of this game wasn’t the outcome we wanted and that’s definitely heartbreaking. Even though we were down tonight on the scoreboard, I wanted to leave it all on the floor like Draper encourages us to do,” Slaughter said.
“One of his former players sent him a text to read to us about playing like we wouldn’t have any regrets five years later. I think that’s that what we did tonight.”
Slaughter ended with what Hill and Scott have meant to her and the team.
“Keely and Savannah have meant so much to us. It’s different coming on to this team and playing with older girls. It can be a little nerve racking, but they’ve been so much fun to play with. Their leadership has been something we’ve followed, and they will be missed,” Slaughter said.
Freshman Grace Slaughter drives to the basket against Lincoln Prep.
Photo credit: John Overstreet
Senior Keely Hill attempts to block a shot against Lincoln Prep.
Photo credit: John Overstreet