Normally a scoreless first half from all-everything senior Daniel Mahurin would spell disaster for the Grain Valley Eagles.
Not on this night. Mahurin bounced back with a 13-point second half, and got plenty of help from his teammates. Cody Zeigler and Jordan Mahurin scored 17 and 14 points, respectively, in a 66-59 victory over O’Hara Thursday in the semifinals of the Grain Valley Sonic Showdown.
Daniel Mahurin took only two shots in the first half, but responded with a 4-for-6 effort from the floor in the second, which included the team’s lone 3-pointer.
“My teammates are good at picking up the slack whenever I am doing bad,” Daniel Mahurin said. “That’s big whenever I am not at my best.”
His brother, Jordan, was the primary facilitator in the second half for the Eagles, with his most important assist going to Zeigler with 4:51 remaining in the final period, giving his team a 54-47 advantage. His cross-court pass found a wide-open Zeigler underneath the basket for a conventional three-point play.
After Zeigler’s bucket, the senior pumped both his fists and proceeded to give an adrenaline-filled high-five to teammate Nick Alvarado. That play sparked a 10-4 run for Grain Valley, capped by a pair of Daniel Mahurin free throws, to make it 64-51 with a little more than two minutes remaining. That cushion was enough for the Eagles as they held on for the seven-point win.
“That definitely got a lot of momentum for us,” Zeigler said. “We needed that because it had been close the entire game. It just kind of pumped the team up.”
Plays like that didn’t happen by accident. Grain Valley managed to handle O’Hara’s full-court pressure and used precision passing to find teammates for open layups throughout the contest.
“That's something we really worked on, is getting the ball to open people and make them pay,” Grain Valley coach Andy Herbert said. “O’Hara’s defensive pressure is really good, and we knew it would be a struggle to take care of the ball. But we did a great job of finding open players.”
“It’s been kind of off and on,” Zeigler said of the team’s passing this season. “Today we were able to find some people and that helped us a lot.”
Zeigler just happened to be ultimate opportunist of that stellar passing. Most of his buckets came off backdoor cuts and getting open on fast breaks, some of which resulted in four three-point play opportunities. Those kind of baskets has been Zeigler’s mission the entire season.
“What I like to do is find gaps in the defense,” Zeigler said. “A lot of times, whenever we drive it, it helps me get open on the back side. I especially find gaps when other teams play zone. Like tonight, I was able to find them.”
It took a while for Grain Valley to get its offense going, though. In a first half where points were at a premium, the Eagles led 13-12 at the end of the first quarter and went into halftime up 19-16.
The third period started an offensive explosion for both teams, as the Celtics’ Luke McCarville scored eight of his game-high 24 points. O’Hara made a strong push to cut the lead to 39-37 heading into the final stanza.
But each time O’Hara tried to make a run, Grain Valley responded with a Daniel Mahurin jumper or Zeigler layup.
Grain Valley (13-3) advances to the championship game and will face Lincoln Prep at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“We’re getting better every day, and that’s all you’re trying to do,” Herbert said. “Sometimes your record doesn’t dictate your progress, but we’re playing good enough to win games. I am really proud of our team.”