With 6 minutes, 53 seconds left in what looked like a blowout, coach Randy Draper’s Grain Valley girls basketball team put together one of its patented runs inside the noisy confines of Fort Osage’s gymnasium.
What had been a 31-18 lead was suddenly 31-23 following a long-range 3-pointer by Keely Hill.
The Indians, coming off a stinging 55-25 loss at U.S. 24 rival William Chrisman, handled the late run with a steely resolve.
Rachel Buntin grabbed an offensive rebound and put up a layup and two Eagle turnovers led to baskets by Kiyley Flowers and Hailey Chase and the Indians were off and running to a 45-34 victory.
“I have as much respect for Randy Draper and his teams as any coach and team we play,” Indians coach Lindsay Thompson said after her team improved to 7-8. “I wish we could play his team every two weeks, because when you play a team like his, a team that works so hard, you have to work hard and that makes your team better.
“I was really interested to see how our girls would respond after our loss at Chrisman, and they came out tonight and played so much better.”
The Indians led 12-10 after one period and extended it to 24-16 by halftime. Thompson said it was a total team effort to build the lead.
“It was amazing to watch Kiyley distribute the ball – she had to have double figures in assists – and Rachel and Alecia (Monday) did a great job at the guard position,” Thompson said. “Chloe (Harris) had a nice game and it was Austin Moise’s best game. Everyone contributed.”
Following the win, the Indians stood at center court while the Fort Osage band played the school song, then the players dispersed to visit with friends and relatives.
“We don’t have team meetings after games anymore,” explained Thompson, “the kids need to thank their parents and grandparents and visit with their friends after the game. There’s nothing that we can’t talk about the next day at practice.”
While Thompson was pleased her team’s performance, Draper was thrilled with the Eagles’ never-say-die approach in the fourth quarter.
“We’re so much better now than we were at the beginning of the season – so better than we were even two weeks ago,” Draper said after the Eagles fell to 6-7. “You can see that the girls believe in themselves, and even though we lost, we can take a lot of positives from a night like this.”
Senior guard Kendra Sibert, who hit two 3-pointers and finished with eight points, agreed.
“We don’t make that comeback a few weeks ago,” Sibert said as she placed an ice pack on her right shoulder. “We’re a work in progress. I think we’re going to play our best games later in the season when they mean so much.”
Fort Osage took a 31-21 lead into the final quarter before holding off the late Eagles rally to claim the victory.
“We worked hard tonight,” said Monday, who hit two 3-pointers and finished with 12 points. “I think after our last game, we felt like victims. So, we started working harder. I think you saw a great team chemistry tonight where everyone who played contributed.”
Added Buntin: “Everyone who was on the floor scored a basket or got a rebound or did something to help us win. We weren’t thinking about our loss at Chrisman, we were thinking about what we needed to do to win tonight and get better for the rest of the season.”
Buntin finished with nine points. Hill led the Eagles with 11 points.