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Herl's late shots help Bears stave off Eagles

By Michael Smith
The Examiner

William Chrisman junior Dayne Herl said his team played too relaxed in the second half of Tuesday’s Suburban Middle Six boys basketball contest against Grain Valley.

The last two free throws the 6-foot-4 forward shot were anything but relaxed.

After leading 27-11 at halftime, the Bears saw their lead cut to 41-40 after forward Cole Keller hit 1 of 2 free throws with 50.8 seconds remaining. Herl appeared calm at the line with 34.6 seconds left as he sank both his free throws to push the lead back to three.

Grain Valley junior Nick Hooper, who caught fire in the second half, scoring all 14 of his points in the final 16 minutes, missed a corner 3-point attempt that would have tied it. His teammate, Jayden Yung got the rebound but missed the putback attempt. Herl got the rebound and milked the rest of the clock as his Bears survived for a 43-40 conference road win.

“I was nervous, I am not going to lie,” Herl said of his free throw attempts. “You just have to go up there confident, because if you’re going to think you’re going to miss, you will miss.”

Added Chrisman coach Jake Kates: “That’s the guy I wanted at the line.”

Chrisman (7-12, 3-1 Middle Six) played exceptional defense in the first half, frequently creating turnovers and making life difficult on Keller, Grain Valley’s star 6-foot-6 senior. Keller only had five points in the first half as the Eagles trailed 12-5 at the end of the first period and by 16 points at halftime.

“Defensively, we came out with a lot more energy,” Herl said of the first half. “We got a lot of turnovers and that’s why we took an early lead. In the second half, we got too relaxed and didn’t get many turnovers, and they started hitting threes.”

Kates said his team didn’t follow through with the game plan in the second half, which led to Grain Valley’s comeback.

“We clamped down on Cole in the first half and our plan in the second half was just to go one-on-one with him and cover the shooters,” Kates said. “When you’re up by 20, the only way they are going to get back in it is to hit threes. We didn’t. We left the shooters wide open.”

The Bears went up by as many as 21 midway through the third quarter when Alex Atagi putback made it 37-16. But Hooper sank a pair of 3-pointers, Owen Herbert drained a 3 and Keller converted a conventional three-point play as Grain Valley sliced the lead to 37-24 going into the final period.

The Eagles (5-11, 1-4) went on a 12-4 run to start the fourth powered by Hooper’s eight points, including two 3-pointers and a cutting layup, making it 39-36.

“In the first half, we didn’t match their intensity,” Hooper said. “In the second half, we played with more confidence. We moved the ball around and got shooters open. We got space because of Cole.”

Grain Valley coach Andy Herbert said the bad start was too much to overcome.

“In the last 11 minutes, we played hard,” Herbert said. “We can’t wait 21 minutes to decide you’re going to play. I thought we had been playing so good lately. We had a relax mode and a setback. I didn’t feel like we were as sharp as we had been (in the past six games).”

Herl hit both of his free throws on the next possession to increase the advantage to 41-36. Herbert responded with a corner 3-pointer to cut it to 41-39. Chrisman turned the ball over on a charging call, giving Grain Valley a chance to tie or take the lead.

Keller was fouled on the next possession and missed his first free throw off the front of the rim before making the second. Herl then followed with another two big free throws for the win after Grain Valley couldn’t score on its last possession.

Hooper and Keller led Grain Valley with 14 points each. Hooper was 5 of 8 from the floor, including 4 of 6 from behind the 3-point line. Keller was 4 of 7 from the floor and added a game-high 11 rebounds. Herbert finished with nine points.

Herl led Chrisman with 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting and also grabbed eight rebounds and swiped four steals. Senior Anthony Watkins added seven points.