With all hands on deck, Grain Valley’s boys basketball team still would have faced a tall order against Center in Thursday’s Class 4 District 14 semifinals at Raytown South’s Bud Lathrop Gym.
The Eagles did not have a full deck, and a deep and athletic Yellow Jackets squad proved too much to handle with an 68-51 victory.
Quincy Butler was the lone Center player in double figures. But the senior guard had 29 points, and the Yellow Jackets (18-6) used 10 players by halftime and saw 10 of their 12 players overall get a basket.
Meanwhile, knee problems sidelined the two tallest Grain Valley players in Nick Alvarado and Hunter Domsch, and Alvarado had 19 points and nine rebounds in Monday’s first-round win over Kansas City Southwest Early College. Furthermore, two of the Eagles’ starters were under the weather Thursday.
Grain Valley coach Andy Herbert said it wasn’t an excuse, but he also couldn’t ignore how the Yellow Jackets simply wore down the Eagles (19-7) on both ends of the floor, and physical fatigue led to mental fatigue.
“We knew what we were up against, but we didn’t do things we needed to do to win the game,” Herbert said. “Rebounding was huge, and taking care of the ball was huge. We got lax at times. When we were focused, we made it interesting.
“When you’ve got two 6-5-and-over guys that don’t get to play, and you replace them with guys that are 6 foot, that takes a toll.”
The Eagles found themselves in a 16-9 hole after giving up seven turnovers and nine offensive rebounds in the first quarter. They drew within 21-16 early in the second when Daniel Mahurin got a friendly roll for a 3-pointer, but Butler’s baseline drive for a hoop started a 10-0 Center run that featured a pair of backcourt steals leading to layups.
Center led 36-26 at halftime, and after Cody Zeigler scored in the paint to bring the Eagles within 40-31, the Yellow Jackets put them away with a 15-0 run in the third. That spurt started when Jarel Canty made a leaping save for an offensive rebound off the baseline. When he slammed the ball high off the floor, Center’s Trevon Wilson and a Grain Valley player both tried to tip the ball and the deflection went into the hoop.
Grain Valley committed seven more turnovers in the third, and Center led 55-32 heading into the fourth, where the margin reached as high as 66-37.
Butler (10 rebounds) and Canty (7 points, 4 assists) each had three steals for Center, and Gary Starr’s 12 rebounds led a 49-35 advantage on the boards.
“The fatigue had a big part,” Herbert said about struggling to slow the Yellow Jackets. “They kept running guys, running guys, running guys, and we don’t have that luxury.”
Eagle seniors Mahurin and Hunter Ramirez acknowledged the role that injuries and fatigue played.
“We had a small lineup, so we knew rebounding would be huge,” said Mahurin, who had 14 points and six rebounds in his last prep game. “I think they were able to run guys the whole game.”
“We were getting tired a lot faster than we normally do,” added Ramirez, who gathered a team-high eight rebounds, “and we couldn’t think the way we normally do.”
Center will play Grandview, an 85-73 winner over host Raytown South, in today’s district final.