Grain Valley boys basketball coach Andy Herbert saw his players panic early Tuesday night against visiting Fort Osage.
He didn’t see them panic during the final 44.8 seconds, though. Instead, he saw the Eagles hold on for an 81-76 non-conference win.
“Their pressure is really good,” Herbert said of the Indians. “But if you can see past it and make plays past it, you’ve got a chance. Once we relaxed and were able to see past the pressure, then good things happened.”
Free throws were among the “good things” that happened for the Eagles (6-2) down the stretch. Grain Valley made 7 of 8 foul shots during the final 44.8 seconds. With the Eagles leading 74-71, junior guard Jordan Mahurin sank the first two.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking, sure,” said Mahurin, who led Grain Valley with 17 points and was among five Eagles in double figures. “But when you’ve got to step up and make free throws, you just go do it.”
Following a Fort Osage turnover, Cody Zeigler scored the last of his 15 points by making two shots with 38.4 seconds remaining. After Willie Penamon’s two free throws had cut it to 78-73, Daniel Mahurin sank one of two attempts with 18.3 seconds left.
Penamon got the last of his 14 points by sinking a 3-point goal with 6.1 seconds left. Daniel Mahurin answered by sinking two foul shots with 4.9 seconds left to finish with 14 points.
Through the first quarter, it appeared the Eagles wouldn’t be in the position to win it at the line. Sparked by a 9-0 run, the Indians led by double digits during the quarter. Fort Osage led 25-16 at the quarter’s end.
Indians coach Josh Wilson attributed Fort Osage’s first quarter to a recent defensive change. Rather than matching up with teams in the half-court, the Indians pushed the tempo to compensate for their size deficiency, he said.
“If we play four quarters and everything’s in the half-court, we’re not going to compete,” Wilson said.
Grain Valley outscored Fort Osage 19-8 the second quarter to lead 35-33 at halftime. Seth Banks’ buzzer-beating jumper gave the Eagles their two-point lead.
The Eagles edged the Indians 21-20 the third quarter to lead 56-53 after three quarters. Senior forward Hunter Domsch sparked Grain Valley by scoring 10 of his 13 total points during the quarter.
“I don’t remember him at all from last year, and he did some good things (tonight),” Wilson said. “He’s a big body in there. Big bodies are our problem.”
The Eagles pushed their lead to double digits during the fourth quarter only to watch the Indians make it a single-digit margin again. Brian Starr, who led Fort Osage with 17 points, sank a late bucket force Grain Valley to win it at the line during the final minute.
But clutch foul shooting wasn’t the only reason Grain Valley won.
“We just relaxed,” Jordan Mahurin said. “We didn’t turn the ball over. We took good shots. We were patient with the ball.”
Nick Alvarado provided 12 points for Grain Valley. Skylar Thompson added nine – all during the third quarter – for Fort Osage (5-5).