by John Unrein
The Grain Valley Lady Eagles basketball team took an 11 point lead into halftime against a tough conference opponent in the Fort Osage Indians on Tuesday, January 21st. Grain Valley was initially unable to build a sizeable lead due to a Fort Osage team that played tough man to man defense and was efficient at moving the basketball for open looks with screens.
Junior Forward Jordyn Weems started the third quarter determined to stretch her team’s lead while also drawing the assignment of defending the leading scorer for Fort Osage in Junior Guard Kiyley Flowers. Weems was up for both tasks.
“My confidence is growing because Coach Draper gives me a job and I do it. Offense is not my special suit and I have been working to improve there. It seems like it’s starting to come together. Coming off my injury last year, I felt like a Freshman again at certain points early in this season,” Weems said.
“The challenge tonight defensively for us was not losing the player we were assigned to guard. We had good help off the screens along with being quick to recover if we were screened. My favorite part of the game tonight was seeing us relax at the start of the second half due to us getting up and down the court in transition as well as creating turnovers. It provided a confidence that calmed us.”
Weems would contribute 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 well timed steals. The decisiveness displayed with her passing, driving the lane, and stepping in front of passes to create turnovers fired up her teammates and Lady Eagles Head Coach Randy Draper.
“I was really pleased tonight with the way we played defensively. We got a couple of kids in (Malia) Guttierrez and Weems that are tough and athletic players that match up well against the good scorers of our opponents. Sound rebounding allowed us to sprint out in transition and get a couple of easy ones. In this game every easy basket is valuable,” Draper said.
“Weems is starting to figure out how to play to her strengths. She caught the basketball in places where she could hurt them and that got Grace (Slaughter) open more. It’s a bonus for us that teams are starting to have to worry about other people offensively when they play us.”
Freshman Guard Grace Slaughter drove the lane and worked for position under the basket while showcasing a drifting shot with her left hand; quite an impressive feat considering Slaughter is right handed and learned to shoot efficiently with her left hand due to an injury in middle school.
“I broke my right collar bone in sixth grade, and it required surgery. I now write with my left hand. For six months straight I was shooting the basketball left handed in the gym. It has allowed me to be comfortable finishing drives with my left hand along with drifting that direction shooting with my left hand,” Slaughter said.
“We knew tonight that Fort Osage was an athletic team. Kiyley Flowers was going to handle the basketball and shoot a lot tonight. Coach Draper preached staying on her, crashing the middle, and hitting the boards to prevent them from having second chances. Seeing Jordyn take off tonight was awesome. She played lock down defense at times on Kiyley (Flowers).”
Slaughter would score 28 points, pull down 8 rebounds, and contribute 1 block. The strength of play by both Weems and Slaughter assured the 53-32 win for Grain Valley over Fort Osage. The Lady Eagles improve to 10-4 on the season.
Up next for Grain Valley will be a chance at redemption when they host the Kearney Bulldogs on Thursday, January 23rd. Kearney is responsible for one of Grain Valley’s four losses. Draper provided insight on the importance of the upcoming game.
“Kearney is next for us. That’s one of our four losses. They beat us by twenty points last time. We are looking forward to the matchup again, and it will be a lot of fun. I love how much we’ve improved. It will be a challenge for us as they (the Bulldogs) are a really good team as well,” Draper said.