Grain Valley has taken its lumps so far in its first season of Suburban Conference girls basketball. Even the conference’s other newcomer has proven tough to handle.
Smithville, like the Eagles, is also making its debut in the Small Seven this season, and it’s doing so with a tall and physical team. Grain Valley couldn’t match Smithville’s size or might, and the result was a 50-32 loss Thursday night at Grain Valley.
The loss was the fourth straight for the Eagles, who fell to 7-12 overall and 2-6 in the Small Seven. The transition from the smaller schools of the Missouri River Valley Conference West has been bumpy, but that’s more or less what longtime Eagles coach Randy Draper expected.
“This is by far the toughest schedule we’ve played,” Grain Valley coach Randy Draper said. “Switching conferences, I knew what was coming to some extent. But we’ve still got some opportunities ahead of us.”
Smithville (14-6, 6-2) limited Grain Valley’s opportunities with a starting five featuring three girls 5-foot-8 or taller. Lexi Moes, a 5-foot-11 senior forward, powered her way to a game-high 17 points for the Warriors.
The Eagles struggled to find any offensive flow against the bigger Warriors’ trapping defense under the basket, and they struggled to hold onto the ball, especially in the first half.
All told, Grain Valley made only 12 of 47 shots and committed 17 turnovers.
“They got a bunch of putbacks and we couldn’t box out because they were so much bigger than us,” Grain Valley senior point guard Kendra Sibert said. “And really, whatever we did, it didn’t really work.”
After a 3-pointer by Brittney McKay – Grain Valley’s only trey in the game – gave the Eagles a 3-2 lead in the opening minutes, Smithville took control with a 12-1 run that featured three close-in baskets from Moes. Smithville led 18-7 after the first quarter and 33-11 by halftime after Grain Valley went 2 of 10 from the field with seven turnovers in the second quarter.
“Part of our issue was us,” Draper said. “We had to call timeout early because we didn’t line up right, and we know better. Early in the game, I don’t know if we were as ready to play as we need to be.”
Draper said his team played sharper in the second half, and the Eagles showed some signs of life in an 8-2 run starting the second quarter that included two baskets from Sibert. But Smithville answered with an 8-0 spurt and kept pulling away in the fourth quarter.
Sibert and McKay scored eight points each to lead Grain Valley, which dropped a 55-35 decision to Smithville Dec. 20. The Eagles’ haven’t won since edging Oak Grove in the first round of last week’s Sonic Showdown.
They won’t have to wait long for another shot to snap that skid. Grain Valley will meet Grandview on Saturday in the weather-delayed final of the Pleasant Hill Tournament. Getting a victory, and a trophy, could give the Eagles a much-needed shot in the arm.
“We’re hoping if we win that, that will get our streak going again,” Sibert said.