A starting lineup that features four guards has left the Grain Valley High School girls basketball team on the wrong end of size matchups in nearly every game this season.
Or has it?
The Eagles have turned a smaller lineup — one of the smallest in the city, its coach estimates — from a disasdvantage into an advantage. While the four-guard lineup has prevented them from matching up defensively, the offensive benefits have proven overwhelming.
The Eagles can score. And they can score in bunches. They are averaging 62 points per game during an 11-game winning streak heading into Tuesday night’s game with Pleasant Hill.
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“At the start of the season, some people would tell me there’s no way we can match up because we’re pretty small at several positions,” Eagles coach Randy Draper said. “I said, ‘That’s OK. The other team has to worry about how they’re going to guard us.’”
Tori Squiers is the only post player in the Eagles’ starting lineup, with seniors Aerreon Parker and Courtney Sibert and sophomores Claire Rose and Kendyll Bailey rotating among the four guard positions. The small lineup allows Grain Valley to space the floor in the halfcourt offense — if that’s even necessary.
The Eagles, 15-3, often rely on a fast break offense to create a large chunk of their production.
“Everyone on the floor can run. We tell the girls that if you get yourself down the floor, somebody will find you,” Draper said. “That’s a credit to the way they like to pass, too. It’s entertaining. Every now and then we do something, and I’ll turn to an assistant and say, ‘Wow, now that was pretty good.’”
In the midst of its extended winning streak, Grain Valley has turned its focus to sustainability.
“Some teams I’ve had, they had to lose to learn how to get better. This team is trying to get better while winning, and that means looking at every single little thing we can do to improve,” Draper said. “This team has a chance to play in some games that you’ll always remember. It’s no guarantee we’ll get there, of course, but you want to give yourself the best chance.”
Games to watch
William Chrisman at North Kansas City, 7 p.m. Thursday
The tussle for the Suburban White Conference crown could ultimately be decided Thursday, when William Chrisman puts its unbeaten league record on the line against North Kansas City.
William Chrisman, 18-2, has won eight straight since a one-point loss to Lee’s Summit. The Bears have continued to rely on depth rather than star power — with each member of the starting five contributing nearly 10 points per game.
North Kansas City, 15-5, stands as the Bears’ top hurdle to a conference championship. The Hornets have lost only once in conference play and still have two dates with William Chrisman.
Contrary to the Bears’ balanced production, North Kansas City has struggled to find scoring depth. Maya Brewer and Selena Salas combined for 33 of the team’s 41 points in a five-point win against Liberty North on Monday.
Blue Springs South at Lee’s Summit West, 7 p.m. Monday
After a rocky start to the season, Blue Springs South has found a groove since the New Year. The Jaguars have won 11 of 12 games, a streak highlighted by the weekend’s North Kansas City Invitational championship victory against Park Hill.
Brooke Neal provided a pair of game-winning free throws in that win, then followed with 17 points in a 53-44 win against Lee’s Summit North on Monday.
Despite its recent surge, though, Blue Springs South is still looking up in the Suburban Gold Conference standings. Lee’s Summit West, 14-5, improved to 5-0 in conference action with a 61-32 victory against Lee’s Summit on Monday, a game in which the Titans made eight three-pointers.
Lee’s Summit West upended Blue Springs South 54-45 on Jan. 26 — which remains the Jaguars’ only loss in 2015.