Coach Randy Draper unleashed the beast Thursday night, in the last home game for his Grain Valley girls basketball team, and the result was mind-numbing.
"What about Grace in that first quarter?" the veteran coach asked after freshman Grace Slaughter scored 16 of her game-high 31 points in a 65-42 Suburban Small Seven victory over Raytown South.
"She’s unflappable. She makes it look so easy, and the last time I checked, it’s not as easy as she makes it – and she got all her teammates involved in the game.
"And we have her three more years. My goodness, how good is she going to be in a year or two, because she’s pretty good night now."
The 6-foot-1 guard added 11 second-quarter points and played the opening two minutes of the third quarter before cheering on her teammates for the rest of the blowout win from the bench.
"Nothing Grace ever does surprises me," said senior Keely Hill, who had to battle her emotions after playing in her last home game for the Eagles, "but she did things tonight that kind of surprised me because she was just so dominating out there.
"We’ve seen her score more points, but she’s never scored that many in such a short period of time and she did everything – she hit threes, layups, had assists – it was just about the perfect game.
"I feel so lucky to have been able to play with her for one year. I can’t wait to see what she does in her career."
Last week, Slaughter scored 33 points in an overtime win against Grandview to reach the 500-point plateau in her first year as an Eagle. She had 501 points going into Thursday’s game. It’s believed that 570 points (by Laura Reeves) is the single-season scoring mark for the Eagles.
But Slaughter doesn’t care about personal statistics, she just wants to win. And with her starring on both ends of the court, the Eagles finished regular-season play with a 16-7 overall record and 7-4 conference mark.
"She’s the best player I’ve coached against, and she’s just a freshman," Raytown South coach John Blesz said after his team wrapped up a 1-18, 0-11 regular season. "She pretty much did it all for her team. We did everything we could to stop her and nothing worked in the first half.
"We did a better job in the second half, but she didn’t play that much the rest of the game."
Slaughter hit three 3-pointers in the first half and drove the lane with the grace of a dancer, deftly dishing the ball off to an open teammate if the lane closed.
"She’s just so good, and so unselfish," Draper said.
In her usual post-game routine, Slaughter visits with her family, chats with some friends, then carefully dissects her performance.
"I have to admit, I was feeling it tonight, especially in the first half," Slaughter said. "I came into the game with a lot of confidence. It was our last home game and we wanted to do well for our seniors.
"And my shots were falling. And I think it’s important to get all your teammates involved in the game, like we did tonight. Ella had a great game."
Ella Clyman, another Eagle freshman, finished with 10 points.
"Oh, you should see Ella and Grace go at it in practice," Draper said. "They work so hard, and it’s paying big dividends for both girls. When you have kids who work as hard as they do, and you see them rewarded with the success they’ve had this year, it just makes you feel good."
Clyman finished with 10 points.
Brooke Garth led South with 15 points and Jiyani Thompson added 12.
"It’s been a tough season," Blesz said, "but our girls still work hard. It’s 43-18 at the half tonight and we come out and play as well as we have anytime this season in the second half against a very good Grain Valley team."