Newcomers complement veterans in Grain Valley's opening win

By Bill Althaus

Coach Andy Herbert couldn’t have asked much more from his new-look basketball team in its season opener.

Neither could Dad Andy Herbert.

His Eagles got off to a 15-0 lead and dominated Pleasant Hill all night for a 59-35 victory Tuesday night on their home court.

And his sophomore son, Owen Herbert, hit five 3-pointers to complement the dominance in the paint by senior Cole Keller, who tallied 20 points in less than three quarters.

“He had on that mask, but I think I saw him smiling,” Owen Herbert said of his father after hitting his first three 3-point attempts and finishing 5 of 7 from the floor for 15 points. “He treats me like one of the guys on the team, but I know he wanted me to do well tonight, because that would help the team win.”

As the sophomore talked about his first varsity start, Keller – a senior and elder statesman on the team – listened intently.

“A very good answer and a very good interview for a first timer,” Keller said, as he and Owen shared a laugh. “Anyone who knows Owen knows how hard he works. I’ve never been around a player who works as hard as Owen.

“Some people here tonight might look in their program and see this sophomore and wonder how he scored 15 points. Well, we knew he could do it all along because he works hard and he has a great shot.”

Keller and Herbert were the perfect inside/outside combo for the young Eagles, who had four sophomores on the court throughout the game.

“I told Coach Herbert that we could be a really good team if we can get some outside shots to fall, and Owen and the other guys took care of that tonight,” said Keller, who nearly had a triple-double with 11 boards and six blocked shots. “How many 3-pointers did we have? I know Owen got five.”

The Eagles finished with nine 3-pointers, including one each from sophomore newcomers Keagan Hart and Avery Garmon and two from senior Keeton Maxon.

“You know, it’s our first game and we had a lot of newcomers out on the court tonight,” Andy Herbert said, “so I didn’t get much sleep last night. But I was really pleased with the way we played.

“We didn’t look like a team with all those new faces out there. I was really thrilled with how well we shot the ball, and Cole is going to be a force this season. We really missed him last season when he hurt his knee (during football). It’s great that he could come back this season.”

When the question about Owen was asked, his little brother Eli nearly answered before dad had the chance.

“His little brother was sitting behind our bench and I could tell he was proud as punch,” Herbert said, “and so was I.”

A grinning Eli added: “Owen played pretty good and I’m proud of him. He loves to play basketball and it means a lot to him and our family. Tonight was fun.”

Mason Hicks and Jay Powell led the 2-2 Roosters with seven points each.