Josh Kilpatrick didn’t score a dramatic, buzzer-beating shot to help Grain Valley claim another basketball victory this season Wednesday night in the Eagles’ home opener against Smithville.
The 6-foot-5 jack of all trades didn’t need to as his career-high 35-point night – in which he was 14 of 17 from the floor – led Grain Valley to a 77-46 running clock victory over the Warriors.
His offensive rebound and turnaround jumper as time expired gave the Eagles a 50-49 victory in the championship game of the Marshall Tournament last week.
Kilpatrick, who played all five positions for the 4-1 Eagles, scored eight points in the first quarter, 11 in the second and 16 in the third. Coach Andy Herbert emptied his bench in the final quarter as Kilpatrick and the other starters cheered for their replacements from the bench.
“We could tell early in the game it was going to be Josh’s night,” said guard Seth Dankenbring, who had six points and spent much of the night passing the ball to Kilpatrick. “The big dog was hungry and we kept feeding him the ball. It was so cool to watch Josh play tonight.”
Herbert agreed, as Kilpatrick is inching closer to his 1,000th career point in an Eagles uniform – 959 and counting.
“They double-teamed him, played a box-and-one, they did everything they could to stop Josh and they just couldn’t do it,” Herbert said as his son Owen, a freshman Eagles player, handed his dad the official scorebook, which he kept during the opener.
“And Josh was a little surprised when we showed him the shot chart. He was 14 of 15 from 2-point range and missed a couple of 3-pointers. But, as good as Josh was tonight, this was a complete-team win.
“We did a great job playing defense, and our transition game was outstanding. We made crisp cuts to the basket, and if Josh was open underneath, he got the ball. And if he got the ball and didn’t have a shot, he would kick it back out to a teammate.”
Kilpatrick also worked hard off the ball to give his teammates a prime target as he drove to the basket.
“I’d like to have had a Fitbit on him tonight,” joked Herbert, “because he was up and down the court and worked so hard to get open. I bet he ran several miles tonight and it sure paid off.”
The Eagles led just 20-15 after one period, but used a 19-5 second-quarter advantage to blow the game open, taking a 39-20 lead into halftime.
With several Eagles fans, classmates and family members waiting for Kilpatrick, he entered the gym sporting an ear-to-ear grin.
“A.J. (Salisbury), Caden (Matlon) and Seth did a great job tonight getting me the ball,” Kilpatrick said. “It seems like forever since we’ve played at home. We’ve had a lot of practices in our gym, but it is so cool to win our first home game like this, and we want to thank our fans for coming out to support us.
“This was just a great night.”