Keller's big game helps Eagles upset Patriots
Grace Slaughter, Grain Valley girls make it a sweep of Truman
Grain Valley senior Cole Keller has been content with his role of teaching the younger players on his team what it takes to win.
On the court, off the court, in the classroom and in his community, Keller stands tall – and it has nothing to do with his 6-foot-6 frame.
Saturday afternoon at Truman High School, Keller took on the Patriots’ trio of Najee Williams, Max Black and Runey Hernandez and literally carried his Eagles to a 53-51 Suburban Middle Six victory you had to see to believe.
His twisting, turning, reverse layups accounted for 24 points. He added nine rebounds and seven assists and for good measure, and blocked a desperation 3-point attempt by Black as the buzzer sounded, ending the game.
“This was a defining moment in our season, in Cole’s career and for our program,” said Owen Herbert, a sophomore guard who helped take some of the pressure off Keller by hitting five 3-pointers for all of his 15 points, including three in a row in the third period to give Grain Valley a 37-30 lead with 2:52 left.
“Cole is the guy everyone on the team looks up to, respects, watches to see what it means to be a leader – and we were all watching him today. We’re so proud of him.”
So was Owen’s father, Eagles coach Andy Herbert.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a player like Cole,” Herbert said after the upset win gave his Eagles a 7-13 overall record and 2-6 conference mark. “He’s a beast, he’s a warrior. I was watching him and just shaking my head – maybe the best performance I’ve ever seen.”
Truman coach Rod Briggs also was impressed by Keller.
“We tried to stop him and we couldn’t,” Briggs said. “But don’t forget what Owen did in the game – his 3-point shooting helped them win this game.”
Keller, who was greeted by family and friends after the game, was all smiles.
“I wanted to go over and hug Owen when he hit those 3-pointers,” Keller said. “Those were huge.”
With less than two seconds left in the game, Black, Truman’s 3-point specialist, tried a desperation attempt that Keller blocked. Had he fouled the senior guard, he would have had three free throw attempts to win the game.
“The adrenaline just took over,” Keller said. “I wasn’t going to foul him. I made a clean block – thank goodness.”
Williams and Maddox Bristow finished with 14 each and Black finished with nine for the Patriots (17-6, 6-3), who also lost to Raytown Friday night.
Grace Slaughter got in early foul trouble but still scored a game-high 21 points to lead the Eagles to a 59-41 conference win over the host Patriots.
“After the game I made Grace sign a document saying she would never get four fouls in a game again,” quipped Eagles coach Randy Draper, thumping on his heart. “We got to play some younger kids, and they came through.”
At one time in the fourth quarter, the Eagles (11-6, 5-4) had four freshmen on the court,
“I don’t spend much time on the bench,” said Slaughter, whose 27.5-points-per-game average leads the metro area,” and it was fun to watch all our young kids out there, especially our freshmen.”
Freshman Finley LaForge had three 3-pointers and finished with 10 points. Camryn Bown also scored 10.
“They’re a great team with a great coach and a great player in Grace,” Truman coach Jimmy Page said after his young team fell to 9-9 and 4-4. “We’re both so young, this is going to be a great rivalry for years to come.”
Layla Scott scored 14, Urya’ Williams added 11 and Taliyah Scott had 10 to lead Truman.