Grain Valley freshman sensation Grace Slaughter wasn’t feeling well as she warmed up for Wednesday night’s Sonic Showdown semifinal against St. Michael the Archangel Catholic.
“If that was the case,” Eagles coach Randy Draper quipped, “I hope we’re all feeling a little bit sick, because if you play like that when you’re sick, you’re something special. And Grace and the rest of this team are something special.”
Slaughter scored a game-high 25 points as the host Eagles downed the Guardians 58-39 to advance to Friday’s 8:30 p.m. title game against Raymore-Peculiar, a 49-42 winner over Oak Park in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
“I just talked to the girls and told them you strive to be in the championship game of every tournament, especially your own tournament, because it’s just special to play for the championship,” Draper said. “We’ve got a tough task Friday, going against Ray-Pec, but we’re excited. Hey, we finished fourth last year, so it’s great to be back (in the title game) this year.”
Following the game, Slaughter had a special moment with members of her family near the Eagles bench.
“I just have so much support, it’s amazing,” Slaughter said. “I wasn’t feeling good before the game, but once you start playing, all you think about is what you need to do on the court to win the game. Whatever I had going on, I just sweat it out during the game. I feel great now!”
For one period, it was a nail-biter as the Guardians trailed just 15-12. The Eagles expanded their lead to 25-20 at halftime, and that’s when Draper and his staff went to work on the locker room chalkboard.
“Coach changed a lot of things up, and we came out on fire in the third quarter,” said Slaughter, who scored 13 of her 25 points coming out of the locker room. “We had a great defensive plan the second half and we got a lot of our points off fast-break baskets.
“We were like a different team the second half, and that all comes from Coach Draper and the confidence we have in him.”
While Slaughter was double-teamed most the night, she and Keely Hill were able to start fast-break situations, with Malia Gutierrez on the scoring end of many of their court-length passes.
“We all know our roles, and everything just changed the second half,” said Gutierrez, who scored a career-high 14 points. “We had so much energy the entire game, but we were really energized in the second half, especially the third period.”
The Eagles used a 22-8 third-quarter run to put the game out of reach.
“If we play like we played in the second half, especially the third quarter, we’re a really good team,” Slaughter said. “Ella (Clyman) was out of her mind on the boards, Jordyn (Weems) and Malia were great defensively and Keely did a great job passing the ball. We all know our roles and are comfortable with them.”
While it was a tough night for Guardians center Clare Scheier, she managed a smile as she visited with members of the Eagles before heading to the bus.
“They’re such a good team,” said Scheier, who led the Guardians with 10 points. “No. 33 (Slaughter) is a special player. We gave them a run for the money, but we just couldn’t keep up with them, especially in the second half.”
FORT OSAGE 64, PLEASANT HILL 56: Kiyley Flowers and Fort Osage got off to a strong start in its Sonic Showdown consolation semifinal.
And the Indians were able to finish it off to advance to Friday’s 5:30 p.m. consolation final against Oak Grove.
“Solid win,” Fort Osage coach Lindsay Thompson said of her team’s victory over the Pleasant Hill Chicks. “Proud of our consistent energy and effort.”
Flowers scored 13 or her team-high 21 points as the Indians grabbed a 25-8 lead after the first quarter. Pleasant Hill whittled the deficit to 32-25 by halftime but the Indians (5-10) hung on in the second half for the win.
Sophia Cornett and Katelyn Ward each added eight points and Kenadi Thomas, Brooklynn Gilpin and Heather Chiesi had seven apiece to help lead Fort Osage’s balanced attack.
Allee Brattin poured in 27 points and Kylie Campbell had 19 to lead Pleasant Hill.