by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley boys basketball team needed a big basket.
The Eagles were trailing Blue Springs South 52-50 with less than 30 seconds in Friday’s non-conference contest at home.
Grain Valley freshman Eli Herbert missed a 3-pointer but the ball went off a South player, which gave the Eagles the ball back with 13 seconds left.
Veteran head coach Andy Herbert designed a play which had the team set a screen to help Eli Herbert get open for a three. The Jaguars (3-4) overcommitted to guarding him behind the arc, so junior Jack Schoen fired a pass to a cutting Troyer who was fouled as he made a layup for his first points of the game, sending the crowd into a frenzy with 6.1 seconds left.
He made the ensuing free throw to put Grain Valley ahead by one point. The team proceeded to get a big defensive stop to end the game and earn a 53-52 victory.
“It was just a basketball awareness play,” Herbert said of Troyer’s game winner. (Schoen and Troyer) both have a high basketball IQ and it showed up at a really important time.”
Troyer said he doesn’t remember the free throw but had a good feeling when he approached one of the biggest free throws of his high school career.
“I blacked out, I don’t really remember anything,” Troyer said of his big free throw. “I didn’t remember my routine when I shoot a free throw. I felt like I have never shot a basketball, but after the first one, I had a feeling it was going in.”
After Troyer put Grain Valley (5-1) one, the team came up big defensively. For most of the game Grain Valley sat back in a zone defense to help prevent South players from scoring in the paint.
However, as South inbounded the ball to guard Michael Brooks, the Eagles defense used a press at half court, which flustered the senior and caused him to call a timeout with 1.2 seconds left.
The Jaguars inbounded the ball just past halfcourt but the ball was deflected and senior forward Rhylan Alcanter dove on a loose ball as time expired.
“I think they weren’t expecting it,” Troyer said of the press at the halfcourt line. “We had been playing back so much so when we were playing up, it kind of discombobulated them.”
Grain Valley pulled off the victory after South led for the majority of the second half. The Eagles led 14-9 after one period behind eight points from Alcanter. Grain Valley led by as many as 12 points in the second period but the Jaguars ended the half on a 14-4 run to tie the contest at 25-25 at halftime.
In the third period, South got a big performance from senior Akol Ngor, who had 12 of his 18 points in the quarter, including a pair of rim-rattling dunks – one on a putback slam and another on the fast break.
The Jaguars went into the fourth up 43-40 and kept the lead until the 3-minute mark thanks to a timely 3-pointer from Brooks and a driving layup from Collin Dobson. But Herbert helped keep his team in it by scoring 13 of his team-high 17 points in the second half, which included a trey and two free throws in the fourth period.
Schoen gave Grain Valley the lead with 3 minutes left when he lost control of the ball after receiving a pass, saw a wide-open driving lane on the left wing, and took it to the hoop for a layup and a 49-48 advantage.
“Jack has been amazing, his passing is top two on the team,” Troyer said. He’s one of the best passers I have ever seen and he plays underrated defense.”
A few possessions later, South senior forward Logan Willis, who had a game-high 19 points, with 17 coming in the first half, made a driving floater to put his team ahead by two points. On the next possession, Alcanter got an offensive rebound off a 3-point miss from Schoen and was fouled. He made 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game at 50-50.
On the following possession, Ngor leaped above the outstretched hands of Alcanter to make a driving floater to put South ahead by two. Troyer was fouled after that but missed the front end of a 1 and 1. Luckily for him, Brooks also missed a free throw in a 1 and 1 situation, which set the stage for his heroics.
“That was a great play,” Eli Herbert said. “I knew I was going to come out (behind the 3-point line) and they were going to jump it. The slip was wide open and it was and Jack made a great pass.
“We love Reece. He is that glue guy that does things right defensively. He always plays so hard.”
The Grain Valley boys basketball team celebrates after getting a big defensive stop at the end of a 53-52 win over Blue Springs South Friday at home. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley senior Reece Troyer looks to inbound the ball. He had the game-winning 3-point play with 6.1 second left in the win. Photo credit: Michael Smith
Grain Valley senior Rhylan Alcantrer, white jersey, looks to catch an inbound pass. Photo credit: Michael Smith