Fort Osage faced a daunting challenge in Saturday afternoon’s 21st annual Grain Valley Eagles Sonic Showdown championship game.
Coach Josh Wilson’s Indians were missing point guard Miles Dunfield (sprained ankle) and power forward Xavier Kahube (high ankle sprain). They were about to face an Oak Grove team that featured center Trey Bryant, who had scored 51 points two nights earlier; Tully Thomsen, who saw his Oak Grove single-game mark of 43 points erased by Bryant’s dominating performance.
But those absences did not deter the Indians, who used four late free throws by Ty Baker and Cahleel Smith to edge the Panthers 65-61.
With 30 seconds left in the game, Baker hit two free throws to make it 63-61 and Smith then added two from the charity stripe with nine seconds left to account for the final score.
“The cool thing about our team,” Baker said, “is that whoever is playing, we’re playing for each other and our coaches. The guys we had out on the court got it done, and we were able to win our second tournament of the year.”
The Indians won the Nelson Division in the William Jewell Holiday Classic to claim their first tournament crown earlier this season.
“These guys have been getting it done all season,” Indians coach Josh Wilson said. “We’re missing two very important players, and the guys who came in and played took their game to the next level and that’s fun to watch – for the coaches and their teammates.”
While Baker and Smith hit those late free throws, one of the biggest baskets of the night came from Jared Larson, whose 3-point basket out of the far corner gave the Indians a 53-50 edge going into the final eight minutes of play.
“That was a big basket for Josh’s team, a game changer, because it gave them a lot of momentum going into the fourth quarter,” Panthers coach Ty Hames said.
“Give them credit, they did a great job all night. We knew they were missing two of their best players, but you sure couldn’t tell it by the way they were playing.”
When asked about the trey, Larson grinned and said, “I knew they were trying to work the ball to me, and when I got it, I had a great look at the basket and it went in. This was just a great team win.”
While Bryant and Thomsen had been the big-point producers for the Panthers, and were members of the all-tournament team, Bryant was held to just seven points and Thomsen scored 12, but battled foul problems before picking up his fifth midway through the fourth quarter.
“The guys kind of forgot about getting the ball inside to Trey,” Hames said, “and Tully had foul problems, but Eli (Wycoff, 22 points) had an amazing game and really kept us in the game when some guys were struggling.”
Baker and Smith spent much of the game double teaming Bryant in the paint, and scoring big baskets throughout the game.
Baker and Larson scored 20 each to lead Fort Osage (14-3) and Smith added Triston Turner added 12 apiece.
Larson and Turner joined Bryant and Thomsen on the all-tournament team, along with Grain Valley’s Josh Kilpatrick and Cole Keller; and Van Horn’s Jaden Monday.
Local players on the girls all-tournament team were Grain Valley’s Kendra Sibert and Brittany McKay and Fort Osage’s Kiyley Flowers and Alecia Monday.
GRAIN VALLEY 74, MARSHALL 58: Josh Kilpatrick scored 25 points to lead the Eagles to a victory in the third-place game.
The Eagles ran off to a 20-10 first-period lead and 39-22 halftime advantage to never be seriously challenged.
“We approached this game like it was the championship game,” said Kilpatrick, who also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds. “We really wanted to be in the championship game of our tournament, but that didn’t happen, so we really worked hard and played well today to win the third-place game.”
Cole Keller added 14 points and Caden Matlon and Kevin Gutierrez 11 each for Grain Valley (10-8).