Young Eagles grow with momentum-building win

Mizzou commit Grace Slaughter gets help as she fires in 36 points in victory over Raytown

By Bill Althaus

After his star player poured in 36 points, Grain Valley girls basketball coach Randy Draper was ready to talk about his role players.

Those young players had a big part in helping the Eagles end the regular season with a gritty 61-59 Suburban Middle Six Conference overtime victory over Raytown – the same Blue Jays team that beat the Eagles 74-56 earlier in the season.

Grain Valley's Jordyn Weems, Ella Clyman, Grace Slaughter and Finley LaForge, left to right, celebrate their 61-59 home victory over Raytown Wednesday. The Eagles avenged a loss to the Blue Jays earlier this season

And while Missouri commit Grace Slaughter, the metro area’s scoring leader, finished with 36 points – and hit the final two free throws in overtime to provide the winning margin – she was also eager to talk about her teammates, including Jordyn Weems, Finley LaForge, Emma Jane Ogle, Camryn Bown, Ella Clyman and Gabbi Keim.

“The kids who played tonight aren’t freshmen anymore,” Draper said after his team won its third straight. “They found out tonight how everyone can contribute to a huge win like this.

“Grace scored six of our eight overtime points – and I’m fine with that – but everyone contributed. We’ve grown so much since the last time we played Raytown. We’re tougher, we’re smarter, we’re playing great basketball, and we threw those training wheels away tonight.”

Grain Valley sophomore Grace Slaughter (33) drives to the hoop against Raytown's Kaylani Hoskin in Wednesday's game. Slaughter poured in 36 points to help lead the Eagles to a 61-59 victory.

Slaughter, who scored 12 points in the first quarter, was proud of her teammates because they contributed offensively to keep the Blue Jays from running a gimmick defense on the 6-foot-2 sophomore guard.

“Last time we played them they ran all kinds of different defenses,” said Slaughter, who broke the school single-game scoring record in that loss by totaling 45 points. “Tonight, they ran man, and we did great against that.

Grain Valley's Jordyn Weems (20) drives past Raytown's Summer Yancy for a layup in Wednesday's game at Grain Valley High School. The Eagles went on to edge the Blue Jays 61-59 for their third straight win entering Saturday's district opener.

“They pressed us, and we beat that and scored some big baskets. All the girls who played tonight did something great – Jordyn’s 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter, Finley’s layup in the fourth quarter, Emma Jane’s steals, Cam’s steal at the end of the game, and all the rebounds Ella and Gabbi got – they were huge.

“We’re such a great team because all anyone wants to do is win. I got 45 against them last time and I would trade tonight for that game in a heartbeat. We’re young, and we’re having fun and we’re winning at the right time of the season.”

With the score tied 59-all and just 23 seconds left in overtime, the unflappable Slaughter went to the line and hit both free throws as an Eagle fan called out, “Just another day at the office Grace!”

Grain Valley's Grace Slaughter (33) sinks a pair of late free throws to lift the Eagles to a 61-59 victory over Raytown Wednesday night.

That made Slaughter smile.

“There was an atmosphere here tonight, and we haven’t had any atmosphere at our games because of social distancing,” Slaughter said. “You could hear fans cheering for both teams, talking to the officials. It was great.”

And perhaps the greatest play of the night came when Bown, a sophomore guard, picked a Blue Jays’ pocket to seal the win with just three seconds left in overtime.

Grain Valley's Ella Clyman, right, looks for an open teammate under pressure from Raytown's Amani Henry in Wednesday's game.The Eagles went on to claim a 61-59 victory.

“I just read her body and knew when the ball was going,” Bown said. “We didn’t want them to get that last shot to tie the game.”

The fourth-seeded Eagles (13-6), who finished 6-4 in the Middle Six, carry that momentum into the Class 6 District 14 opener at 4 p.m. Saturday. They play host to No. 5 Lee’s Summit North.

Summer Yancy led the Blue Jays with 15 points. Gladys Brown added 13 points and Stevi Yancy had 11.

UNDEFEATED JV: History was made in the Eagles’ 60-59 junior varsity overtime victory against the Blue Jays as they wrapped up a 19-0 season, becoming the first basketball team in Grain Valley history to finish a season undefeated.

“I’m proud of the girls, they’ve worked hard this season,” said coach Troy Spradley.

Annabelle Totta scored a game-high 14 points and Emma Thiessen hit a big 3-pointer in overtime and grabbed a rebound as the final buzzer sounded.