Coach Randy Draper’s Grain Valley Eagles continue to be one of the hottest tickets – and teams – in Eastern Jackson County.

They needed a strong defensive effort Wednesday night to stop longtime rival Odessa 39-23 in Pleasant Hill Invitational semifinal before a standing-room-only crowd in the auxiliary gym.

The Bulldogs scored just 6, 4 and 2 points in the first three quarters as the Eagles soared into the 7 p.m. Friday championship.

“It’s nice to know that when you need it, your defense can win a game for you,” Draper said after his Eagles improved to 9-3. “Tonight, we needed our defense to step up and it did. The girls did a great job defensively and we played well enough offensively to get a big win.”

Freshman sensation Grace Slaughter led the Eagles with 15 points and fellow freshman Ella Clyman added 11. Senior Keely Hill scored nine points on three 3-pointers and, along with her teammates, turned in a solid defensive performance.

“We’re playing a lot of young kids and everyone knows about Grace, for good reason, and Ella had a nice game tonight,” Draper added. “And I thought this was one of Keely’s better games. She really played well defensively and shot the ball well from long range.”

Slaughter scored 12 of her 15 points in the second half, and was a big presence in the paint with three blocked shots.

“Tonight, we needed to play well defensively to win, and we were able to do it,” Slaughter said. “We didn’t play our best game tonight. And we learned a lot about ourselves tonight, because we weren’t scoring many points, but we played great defense, and I believe defense can win as many games as offense.”

Hill agreed with that.

“Odessa is one of our biggest rivals, and we get excited when we play them,” Hill said. “We were all so pumped and super excited before the game, and then we came out and had trouble scoring.

“But even though we didn’t score like we usually do, we played great defense, and I think defense is even more important than offense. We won tonight because of our defense.

“If we keep playing defense like we did tonight, we’re going to have a fun season the rest of the way.”

Odessa’s Konnor Lundquist scored all eight of her team-high points for the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter.