It got rather dicey down the stretch for Grain Valley Saturday night. Odessa was mounting a comeback, and the Eagles became a little wobbly.
It became evident that the team that could keep its wits over the final minutes would be the boys champion of the 90th annual Pleasant Hill Invitational basketball tournament. And that team would be Grain Valley.
Grain Valley made the plays, and Josh Kilpatrick made the points over the final minute that gave the Eagles a 60-50 victory in the cozy Pleasant Hill Intermediate School gym.
“We’ve always had good battles with them, and they push us to our limits every time we play them,” Kilpatrick said of Grain Valley’s former MRVC West rival. “So we knew what we were going to get into.”
Kilpatrick scored seven of his game-high 29 points after Odessa cut an eight-point deficit to 50-49 with 1 minute, 25 seconds to play. The basket that capped the 9-2 run by the Bulldogs came right after a Grain Valley turnover.
Kilpatrick sank two free throws with 1:09 left to give Grain Valley some breathing room, and the Eagles forced turnovers on Odessa’s next two possessions. Caden Matlon drew a foul and made one of two free throws after the first, and Kilpatrick sealed it after the second when two passes by A.J. Salisbury and Gavin Oyler set him up inside for an and-one after the second.
“It was a game-changer because we really didn’t have our normal offense going late in the game,” said Kilpatrick, who made two more free throws with 15 seconds left. “We pushed the ball off of their turnover and made two good passes and we were lucky to finish it.”
Grain Valley (11-3) made its own luck most of the game with sharp passing and ball movement that created shots both inside and outside. Kilpatrick made three 3-pointers that complemented his work inside the paint. Matlon also had a three among his 12 points and Salisbury was also in double figures with 10.
And they all had a hand in getting those looks. Kilpatrick had five assists to go along with eight rebounds and three steals. Matlon had eight rebounds and two assists, Oyler had four assists and Salisbury also had two assists.
“It’s something we’ve been preaching all year, but it’s starting to click a little bit on getting people involved and getting to open spots,” Grain Valley coach Andy Herbert said. “This whole week we did a really good job of that.”
Odessa (8-5) countered with a balanced attack that featured 16 points from Cade Adams and another 16 from Dawson Gittinger, who made five threes. Grain Valley led 14-12 after the first quarter and 25-21 at the half, and the Bulldogs would never go away.
Gittinger popped two threes to start a back-and-forth third quarter with three ties and two lead changes before the Eagles finished on top 42-36. A three from Kilpatrick with 5:19 left gave the Eagles their biggest lead at 48-40.
Then the Bulldogs started coming back.
“I thought we executed offensively late in the game,” Herbert said. “That’s what it takes to finish off games – great possessions, get the ball to the basket and get fouled, and we did all those things.”
Kilpatrick and Matlon were named to the all-tournament team after the game, which was postponed a day by Friday’s icy weather and moved from Pleasant Hill High School’s gym because of a show choir contest. That didn’t keep the Eagles from winning their second tournament title in as many tries this season.
“It means a lot because we’ve been battling every single day in practice,” Kilpatrick said. “And playing with guys you care about, it means a lot more to you.”
GIRLS FINAL: Belton designed its defense around stopping Grain Valley freshman sensation Grace Slaughter in the Pleasant Hill girls championship game. For the Eagles, this is nothing new.
That strategy, of course, doesn’t work as well when Grain Valley can find shots elsewhere. When the Eagles can’t, it’s devastating. Slaughter still got 19 points, but she and the rest of the Eagles struggled from the field in a 47-29 loss to Belton.
Grain Valley (9-4) made just 12 of 42 shots, a chilly 29 percent. From 3-point range, the Eagles were just 2 of 16. Keely Hill (two points), Malia Gutierrez (a 3-pointer) and Ella Clyman (three points) were the only other Eagles to score besides Slaughter.
“We can shoot it better than that,” Grain Valley coach Randy Draper said. “Part of it is we’ve got to get better when they sell out with three or four people to take (Slaughter) away. If you shoot it in the basket that will help it a lot.”
Belton (10-3) never trailed after opening the game with a 9-0 run. Grain Valley pulled back within 11-10 by the end of the first quarter, but the Eagles managed only three points – a 3-pointer by Slaughter – in the second quarter and trailed 19-13 at the half.
Slaughter scored six points in the third quarter, but they were Grain Valley’s only points. Belton opened the period with an 8-0 run and had a 36-19 lead by the fourth quarter.
Kennedy Moss scored 17 points to lead Belton, which also got 13 points from Kyndal Lewis.
Slaughter and Hill both made the girls all-tournament team.