At the start of the season, Grain Valley senior forward Ethan Macoubrie said that one area in which the boys basketball team had struggled mightily was defense.
That certainly hasn’t been the case lately as the Eagles had another strong defensive performance in the first round of the Class 4 District 13 tournament.
Grain Valley stymied No. 6 seed Odessa and held its third straight opponent below 50 points as it claimed a 68-31 decision Saturday at Oak Grove High School.
The Eagles advance to the semifinals to play longtime rival Oak Grove at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
In their last regular season game, the Eagles held Pleasant Hill to 45 points. A game before that one, Grain Valley stumped the Oak Grove offense, which had a meager 22 points.
The defensive effort was more of the same on Saturday as the Bulldogs had no answer for Grain Valley’s suffocating man-to-man scheme. The Eagles held Odessa to 27 percent shooting from the floor, 9 percent from behind the arc and helped force 22 turnovers. They then converted those turnovers into 29 points.
“I just thought our guys are the most mentally engaged that they have been all year – just really scouting report-oriented and did the things we talked about doing,” Grain Valley coach Andy Herbert said of the defense. “We talked about defense all year and today was the best that it’s ever been.
“We did such a good job helping, our defense probably looked like a zone at some points. That’s what it takes against a team like Odessa. They have some good players.”
Added Macoubrie: “We knew earlier in the year that defense was one of our weaker points, so we really had to work on it. Now, we are really clicking.”
The Eagles (23-3) were sharp on offense, too, as they shot 52 percent from the floor and had 17 assists on 29 field goals. Leading the way for Grain Valley was senior forward Andru Garrett, who is playing his first year at the varsity level after playing on the junior varsity squad for Blue Springs last season.
“We came out really strong on offense and that helped us on the defensive side,” Garrett said. “It makes you want to push harder on the defensive side.”
He put on a show thunderous, one-handed dunk on the fast break in the fourth quarter. He put up a game-high 23 points on 9-for-14 shooting.
“He’s hard to defend,” Herbert said of Garrett. “He’s versatile, he’s athletic … I am glad we don’t have to guard him. He’s been a great addition and he’s fit in well.”
It wasn’t just the Garrett show either. All nine of Grain Valley’s rotational players scored. Sophomore guard Cade Matlon was the other Eagle in double figures with 11 points. Macoubrie filled up the stat sheet with eight points, 13 rebounds, five assists and three steals. Josh Kilpatrick led the team with two blocks.
“We’re all friends, and we have really good chemistry with each other,” said Macoubrie, who said this Eagles team is the most complete that he has been a part of.
It was smooth sailing for Grain Valley from start to finish as it led 13-4 at the end of the first quarter and went into halftime up 33-12. The Eagles put it away after the third when they led 53-24 heading into the fourth.