by John Unrein
The Lady Eagles Basketball team turned in an impressive performance with their victory over the visiting Smithville Warriors on Monday, January 6th by a score of 53 to 34.
Grain Valley used efficient and unselfish ball movement with their passes to find open post players, shooters, and cutters to the basket. This was attained primarily by the Lady Eagles attacking the third side of the defense with their crisp passes around the arc and to the post. The game plan worked, as it wore down Smithville in the second half and afforded Grain Valley to build a sizable lead.
Top offensive performers for Grain Valley included Senior Keely Hill and Freshman Grace Slaughter. Hill produced 9 points, 9 offensive rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block in a strong showing. Slaughter was robust as well while pouring in 25 points, pulling down 4 offensive rebounds, and 2 assists of her own.
Hill’s efforts were aided by her growing ability to box out in the paint, not giving up ground in the post defensively, and looking to pass first to open players when on the perimeter.
“At practice we have worked on getting lower in our stance defensively, which allows you to be lower on their leg or knee when turning towards the basket and boxing out when a shot goes up. That has made it easier to be aggressive when rebounding,” Hill said.
“Offensively it’s the best when I see an open teammate sneaking to the basket and get them ball to score. I have to hide my smile. I got two of those tonight while I was on the perimeter.”
Slaughter is the tallest player listed on Grain Valley’s roster at 6’ 1” tall. The freshman is also listed as a point guard in the program but displayed versatility in both handling the basketball and being comfortable scoring around the goal in the post.
“I was excited to play Smithville tonight because I know they are a conference opponent and a tough team. We were pumped to match up against them and played one of our best games of the season,” Slaughter said.
“The key offensively tonight was we were unselfish. Hitting the open man and a willingness to cut and continually move has been an area of improvement for us. On the defensive side, we talked and that helped us be aware.”
The Warriors game plan included spreading the floor in trying to locate open three point shooters behind the arc and people motioning through the lane to force close outs by Grain Valley.
Head Basketball Coach Randy Draper’s squad was up for the challenge. The Lady Eagles were vocal in calling out the needed switches in their man to man defense in thwarting much of Smithville’s game plan.
Drawing perimeter assignments against the Warriors and not allowing easy looks at the basket were Juniors Jordyn Weems and Malia Guttierrez. The four fouls committed collectively by both players prevented easy shots and forced Smithville to try and earn points at the foul line instead.
Draper was pleased with his team’s effort in picking up the win.
“We talked after the game about how good the sharing of the basketball was offensively tonight. This team is starting to figure it out that you are hard to guard if you will share it all the time. We cut, we want to pass to our teammate, and that makes us fun to watch right now,” Draper said.
“Our kids were on top of the needed switches defensively. We work on that every day but it’s really nice to see in a game and they didn’t keep secrets from one another. The communication came naturally. This was a great win.”
Draper continued, “Keely is one of the best defensive rebounders that’s ever played here. She will box you out and is a tremendous outlet passer. If your open, number 4 is going to get you the ball. She’s also getting her shot rolling which will be huge for us.”
“When people ask me about Grace and what position she plays, I just say yes. That’s due to her versatility. What’s neat is how her teammates are playing off that and what she can do for the good of our team.”
Grace Slaughter wins the game starting tip off for the Lady Eagles.
Photo credit: Valley News staff
Malia Guttierrez attempts a three point jump shot.
Photo credit: Valley News staff