PLEASANT HILL, Mo. – With 2:06 left in the third quarter of a 59-36 Grain Valley girls basketball victory in the opening round of the 92nd annual Pleasant Hill Tournament, senior point guard Claire Rose drove to the basket, was tripped up by a Pleasant Hill defender and fell hard on her shoulder.
Eagles coach Randy Draper’s basketball life passed before his eyes as he watched his star player lie on the ground.
“I was like, ‘Oh, oh, I need some oxygen,’” Draper said, as the Eagles have already lost standout forward Kendyll Bailey to a lower body injury she suffered in a game over the holiday break. “We don’t have Kendyll, and that means some of the girls’ roles on the team are going to expand and take on more significance. But without a point guard – especially when that point guard is Claire Rose, well, let’s just say I was a happy man when she got up and stayed in the game.”
This is what Rose means to the 6-2 Eagles, who face Grandview in an 8:30 p.m. Wednesday semifinal – she scored 14 of the Eagles’ 20 first-quarter points and had three assists on three layups to account for the other six points.
“I have to take my game up to a new level until we get Kendyll back,” said Rose, who scored a game-high 25 points before sitting next to her best friend on the bench, who was keeping stats, for the final minute. “If I have a shot at the basket, I’m going to take it. If someone is open, I’m going to get them the basketball.”
When asked about her three first-quarter assists, Rose grinned and said, “I’d rather have an assist than score myself because that means I’m getting more of my teammates involved in the game.”
This was the top-seeded Eagles’ first game without Bailey, who was on the sidelines wearing a knee brace.
“We knew Rose would come out and do what Rose does,” Draper said, “but we wanted to see how the other girls would respond and I thought we had a nice presence in the middle with (Maddie) Knust and (Kyla) McBride, and (Brittney) McKay did a nice job working with Claire. It’s a nice team win.”
The game was close for the first six minutes as a the Chicks’ Paige Zieman 3-pointer knotted the score at 12-all at 2:46 of the first period. But Rose then hit a layup and had three assists on McKay layups to make it 20-12 going into the second period.
The Eagles led 36-20 at halftime and 47-38 going into the final eight minutes.
“Overall, I’m happy with the way we played tonight,” Draper said. “We’re going to have a different look without Kendyll, but the girls stepped up tonight and I expect them to step it up the rest of the season.”
There is a chance Bailey might return toward the end of the regular season.
“We’ll be fine without Kendyll in the regular season, we don’t want her to rush anything,” Rose said. “But we want her back for the big games, the games that really mean something.”
McKay finished with 11 points.