Grain Valley’s 1-2 knockout punch of Cole Keller and Josh Kilpatrick were just too much for Van Horn to handle Tuesday night.
The duo combined for 51 points to lead the Eagles to an 80-71 win over the Falcons in pool play in the 21st annual Grain Valley Sonic Showdown.
Keller, a 6-foot-5 sophomore forward, scored a game-high 26 points, and took over in the fourth quarter when the Falcons used Joshua Anzaldo’s 3-pointer to take a brief 65-64 lead with 5:12 left.
Following Anzaldo’s basket, Keller scored five straight points on a layup and old-fashioned three-point play to give the Eagles a lead they never relinquished.
While Keller was scoring inside, Kilpatrick was taking care of business fro the perimeter. He drained four 3-pointers en route to a 25-point performance.
And they didn’t just star offensively, Kilpatrick grabbed a game-high 10 boards and Keller added nine.
“Andy (Herbert) is such a good coach, and I knew after last night’s game (in which Oak Grove’s Trey Bryant scored a school-record 51 points – with most of his points coming in the paint – in an 84-68 Panthers’ win), he was going to do everything he could to get the ball down low to Keller,” Van Horn coach Max Sollars said. “And the kid’s just a sophomore. He’s going to do a lot of good things at this school for a long time.”
When asked about Keller’s inside presence and the clutch shooting of Kilpatrick, Herbert smiled.
“We watched a lot of film on the (Van Horn vs.) Oak Grove game, and we went after them inside with Cole, and he just took the game over in the fourth quarter,” Herbert said as the Eagles improved to 9-7. “When they got the lead, we got him the ball inside and he knew what to do with it.
“And Josh is so important to our team. He’s a consistent scoring threat, and tonight, each one of them had big rebounding games. That’s how you beat an explosive team like Van Horn. They can shoot, they are so quick and they’re fun to watch – if you’re not coaching against them.”
Keller downplayed his role in the victory, instead calling it a great team victory.
“Everyone contributed in this game,” Keller said. “The guys did a great job getting me the ball inside because they were doing everything they could to keep it away from me.
“And when I got it, I wanted to finish the play and help us get the lead back. And Josh and Caden (Matlon, 16 points) had big games. Everyone contributed tonight. It was a fun game – but they are so fast, there were times I had to take a little breather just to catch my breath a little bit.
“And the guys who came in for me did a great job. It’s a lot of fun to be on a team where all the guys really care about each other.”
Kilpatrick painted the same picture as his younger teammate.
“Cole was huge the whole game,” the junior forward said. “We knew we could score if we could get the ball inside to him, and when he got it, he went to the basket and scored a lot of points.
“It was a high-energy game and we did everything we could to slow them down. I think our defense really stepped up in the second half and came up with some big stops.”
Anzaldo finished with 20 points to lead the Falcons, who dropped to 8-10 overall and 0-2 in the pool play side of the tournament bracket. Jaden Monday – who scored 33 in the loss to Oak Grove – added 19 points and Caleb Tanis added 13.
“We need to play better defense,” Sollars said. “We’re getting better and better each game. This is one of the toughest tournaments we play in all season, and it’s really going to get us ready when we return to conference action next week.”
The winner of Thursday’s 5:30 p.m. game between Grain Valley and Oak Grove will advance to Saturday’s championship and the loser will play in the third-place game.