The temperature was turned up in the Grain Valley High School gymnasium Wednesday night, but it had nothing to do with the thermostat.
After trailing 17-4 late in the first quarter, the Grain Valley girls basketball team turned up the defensive pressure and claimed a dramatic 53-52 overtime victory over Pleasant Hill in the semifinals of the Grain Valley Sonic Showdown.
Freshmen Kendyll Bailey and Claire Rose were the stars of the game, but Eagles coach Randy Draper was quick to point out that it was a team effort.
“That's a good Pleasant Hill team,” Draper said, “and we should know. A week ago Monday we played them, and it went into overtime and we won 53-52 – déjà vu all over again.”
Grinning, he added, “How about our freshmen? And what about our defense? There were a couple of times we didn't deserve to win that game, but the kids came through and played some great defense.”
The Eagles advanced to the championship against Lincoln Prep or Oak Park.
Bailey hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to close out the first quarter and cut the Eagles’ deficit to 17-7. That seemed to spark Grain Valley, as the Eagles reeled off a 20-point second period to cut the Chicks' halftime lead to 29-27.
“We needed that 3-pointer,” said Grain Valley’s Courtney Sibert, who sank three clutch 3-pointers herself and finished with 10 points. “That proved to everyone we weren't ready to give up, even though they had the big lead.”
Pleasant Hill came out strong in the third period and used a 9-2 run to take a 38-29 lead, but the Eagles didn't panic and went into the final quarter trailing just 42-37.
“We knew we had to play great defense to win the game,” Bailey said. “And we shut them down in the fourth quarter and went into overtime – the second time we went into overtime against them, and both games had the same score. That's crazy.”
Sibert's 3-pointer knotted the score at 44-all with 3:08 left in the fourth quarter, and that was the score at the end of regulation.
Once again, the Chicks took command early in the overtime period, grabbing a 49-44 lead. Bailey got the Eagles back on track offensively with a 3-pointer at 1:07 to make it 50-47.
Rose then hit the first two of four game-changing free throws to make it 50-49 with 37 seconds left.
After the Chicks missed the front end of a one-and-one, Rose drove to the basket and was fouled. She hit both pressure-packed free throws to give the Eagles their first lead of the game, 51-50, with 22 seconds remaining.
Pleasant Hill's Heather Hughes drove the baseline and hit a potential game-winning layup with just 11 seconds left in overtime.
The Eagles, though, worked the ball to midcourt and called timeout.
“Coach put in our five-second play,” said Sarah Turner, who managed to find Bailey under the basket with a pinpoint pass. “I saw all those Pleasant Hill players around Kendyll, but I knew if she got it, she would score.”
And she did.
“That's the biggest basket of my life,” said Bailey, who led the Eagles with 13 points. “It was a perfect pass from Sarah. It was a great way to end the game.”
Long after the game had ended, Rose walked around in the commons area outside the gym looking like she had just seen a ghost.
“That was nerve-wracking,” said Rose, who hit all six of her free throws and finished with eight points. “I was nervous, but I think being nervous makes me play better. Last week I had to hit a free throw to win the game in overtime and tonight we got the lead – but it was great to Kendyll hit that layup.
“Coach always has us ready for games like this, and they're great to win. But they're just so nerve-wracking.”
Rachel Schick scored 13 points to lead Pleasant Hill.