After sputtering and inching away from a struggling Excelsior Springs squad in the first half, Grain Valley’s girls basketball team found the right gear and rolled away in the third quarter to induce a running-clock fourth in a 51-12 home victory.
The Eagles improved to 11-3 overall and remained unbeaten through three Missouri River Valley Conference West contests after harassing the winless Tigers into 36 turnovers and holding them to just one field goal in each quarter.
Despite all the struggles for Excelsior Springs (0-12) against the full-court press, Grain Valley still had a relatively minor lead of 21-7, thanks to its own offensive woes. The Eagles committed 10 turnovers and shots just 8 of 29. Sarah Turner, Courtney Sibert and Kendyll Bailey canned 3-pointers, but the team had numerous misses from close range.
“I just thought our focus wasn’t as good as it needed to be,” Grain Valley coach Randy Draper said. “We were sloppy. The third quarter, it was ‘seal the exits.’ That’s the way we wanted to play. They got to do nothing without stress.”
Aerreon Parker and Turner combined for the first 11 points of the third, and Claire Rose turned a steal into a three-point play. Sibert and Chandler Huttinger added transition hoops as the Eagles led 39-7 before the Tigers got their lone basket of the quarter, which came after 12 turnovers and four misses.
It was 43-9 entering the fourth, and Draper emptied his bench down to player No. 15.
Turner led Eagles with 11 points and claimed five offensive rebounds, as the Eagles claimed 18 of their 28 rebounds on the offensive end.
“We knew at the beginning we needed to crash (the boards),” Turner said. “We’re not that big, and us missing a lot of shots, we knew we had to crash.”
Though Thursday was an extreme example, the Eagles' press has been effective in guiding several opponents away from their strengths, Turner added.
“We know how to make them go a certain way,” she said.
Parker added nine points and Sibert and Bailey seven apiece. Rose had three steals, while Turner, Kali Carson, Bailey and Paula Williams each had two thefts.
Alexus Yoakum and Nicole Rush had four points apiece to pace Excelsior Springs.
Draper couldn’t question the effort and effectiveness of his defense, but he said the Eagles still have offensive wrinkles to iron out.
“We’re still trying to get everyone doing what they do best – play to their strengths. We’re not all the same player.
“Like with (Sarah Turner), we moved her to a different area where she could have the best impact, where she can get rebounds. She’s such a great athlete.”