by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Eagles nearly erased a sixteen point halftime deficit in their loss to the William Chrisman Bears by a score of 43-40 on February 2nd. The Eagles were short two players on their varsity roster and put forth a gutsy effort with a six man rotation. Grain Valley leaned on the rebounding of forward Cole Keller and the long range shooting of guards Nick Hooper and Owen Herbert to claw back into the game.
William Chrisman under the leadership of head coach Jake Kates and the scoring of junior guard Dayne Herl jumped out to an early 5-0 lead in the first quarter in route to 27-11 halftime lead. Herl would lead all scorers in the contest with 16 points.
The Bears were effective in switching between 2-3 zone and man defense in containing the Eagles early in the game. William Chrisman relied on their “4 out” offensive set to increase floor spacing and achieve open shots during the first half.
Missed shots and unforced turnovers contributed to Grain Valley’s deficit entering the locker room at halftime. The second half would be a different story for the Eagles in outscoring their opponent by a 29-16 margin.
Junior guard Nick Hooper would pour in 14 points for the Eagles, including a quartet of 3 pointers from behind the arc. Senior forward Cole Keller would match Hooper’s output of 14 points for the Eagles while adding 11 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block. Sophomore guard Owen Herbert was also part of the comeback charge downing a trio of three pointers.
“I was not very aggressive in the first half. I did not get to the spots I needed to be. I felt good coming out during warmups before the start of the second half. My teammates displayed confidence in me with the passes they provided for my open looks,” Hooper said.
“We took a little step back tonight. We can recover that by avoiding the mistakes we made in our next game against Truman.”
Keller added, “We started slow as a team and found some traction as the game went on. This stings with as close as we came in the second half. I am proud of what we did from the third quarter on in the adversity we faced and how we handled it.”
The closing sequences of the fourth quarter were filled with drama for Grain Valley. Keller helped cut the William Chrisman lead to three points after two made free throws with 5:30 left in the game.
The Bears would start to the hold the ball with two minutes left and intentionally stalled their offense. Grain Valley responded with fouls to gain back possession of the basketball. Herl would sink a total of three free throws for the Bears with under two minutes left in the game.
Herbert would respond for the Eagles by hitting a three pointer with 1:15 left in the game prior to taking a charge under the Bears basket at the 1:06 mark. Keller’s subsequent made free throw with 50 seconds remaining brought the Eagles to within one point at 40-41 before the Bears would pull away for the win.
Grain Valley head basketball coach Andy Herbert was pleased with the effort his team put forth in the last eleven minutes of their comeback effort. Being so close to a positive outcome and where his team is headed next was part of Herbert’s reflection after the game.
“We have been playing so good lately. What you worry about is that you have a setback, and we did tonight. We played hard but did not feel like we were as sharp as we have been. The lesson is you can’t wait to start. You have to be ready as soon as the ball goes in the air and we didn’t do that tonight,” Herbert said.
Herbert continued, “(Nick) Hooper is a tough minded kid. He was the spark plug that we needed. He made some big threes, had a tough, tough finish at the basket, and played solid defense. He was part of the glue that held everything together. His effort gave us a chance to win the game.”
“Keller did a good job finding open people around him. That is hard to do when you are getting that much heat around the basket. It is like having a swarm of bees around you.”
“It takes a physical and mental toll on you to play 32 minutes and take that beating. To be expected to have a clear head and play, they (William Chrisman) did a good job defending him and he (Cole) has some bumps, bruises, and scratches to show for it.”
Herbert concluded, “This team displayed toughness (with a limited rotation). You have to play through foul trouble and being tired along with ups and downs, and this team has done a good job of that so far. Before tonight we had won four of our last six games. We stubbed our toe a little bit tonight. We have a week to stew over it before we play again. We will learn from this and move on.”
Grain Valley (5-11) will face another Suburban Conference rival with their next matchup against the Truman Patriots on February 9th.
Guard Jayden Yung uses the crossover dribble to elude pressure in setting up the Eagles offense.
Photo credit: Valley News staff
Forward Cole Keller completes his post pivot to score in the paint.
Photo credit: Valley News staff