by John Unrein
The ebb and flow of a hard fought game did not go the way of the Grain Valley Eagles boys basketball team in their matchup against the Belton Pirates on December 5th. The Eagles would drop the contest to the Pirates by a score of 64-51 despite robust growth being demonstrated by a youthful Grain Valley squad.
Grain Valley opened the game with a full court press against Belton and trapping the ball as much as possible. The result yielded a 7-0 run by the Eagles and forced the Pirates to call a timeout and regroup.
Grain Valley was able to counter the defensive pressure applied by Belton early in the game due to the ball handling of junior point guard Cylas Brewer. The varsity stage was not too big for the scrappy Brewer in just his second full varsity game since being moved up from the junior varsity roster.
The first quarter would end with a 17-17 tie prior to momentum shifting towards the Pirates during the second and third quarters. Belton would lean on the scoring of guard Giovanni Mack, who contributed 11 of his 21 overall points for the game during the second quarter, including a trio of three pointers from behind the arc. Belton would also lean on their athleticism, strong on the ball defense, and turnovers by Grain Valley leading to points in transition for the Pirates to forge a 38-26 halftime lead.
A determined Eagles squad emerged from locker room for the second half with a vocal Cole Keller encouraging his teammates. Among those hearing from the senior forward was his counterpart in the post, sophomore forward Alex Snyder. A recent growth spurt by Snyder has left him being close in height to the 6’ 5” Keller. Both would end up just one point shy of a double-double (a player accumulating a double-digit total in two of five statistical categories—points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots in a single game).
Keller’s stat line would include 23 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and 4 blocks. Snyder would contribute 9 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block. Both Keller and Snyder are aware of the development their team is displaying as the season progresses. Snyder has accepted Keller pushing him, and Keller is focused on where his team is at the end of February.
“Our effort was good tonight as a team. We showed up ready to play, but you can’t win them all. Cole (Keller) has been pushing me to the ‘max’ in practice and that has helped improve my confidence with what I do on the floor,” Snyder said.
“There are guys on this team that are taking off their varsity training wheels, and we are working to compete in every game we play. The improvement is apparent. The game we played tonight would not have been this close had we played it week one,” Keller said.
“Alex took ten shots tonight in the game, which is a new high for him. Avery Garmon hit two three pointers. Owen (Herbert) continues to score for us. I’m less worried about our current record and more about what happens in February, when things matter the most in basketball.”
None of Owen Herbert’s 11 points were bigger for the Eagles then the three pointer he sank to open the fourth quarter. Herbert’s basket cut the Belton lead to 6 points by a score 48-42, prior to Belton pulling away at the end of the game.
Grain Valley head boys basketball coach Andy Herbert kept things in perspective with his postgame comments.
“We had good stretches in this game tonight. Part of being young and inexperienced is maintaining the focus to play with the edge needed in a varsity game. We are still building that as a team. The problem comes when a turnover or a missed block out becomes two or three,” Herbert said.
“Alex (Snyder) has grown in a couple of a ways. He’s starting to believe in himself and realizing he can play at this level. There is not an abundance of people who can ran and jump like he can, and for that matter Cole (Keller) as well.”
Herbert concluded, “This entire team has made strides from game one to game seven and will continue to do so. We still have a ways to go though. There are good things happening and we have to get more consistent.”
Grain Valley (1-6) will next travel to Raytown to face the Blue Jays at 7:00 pm on January 8th.