By Max Goodwin
The Grandview girls basketball team faces the challenge of replacing one of its all-time greats in scoring in Cierra Smith, who graduated last year.
Smith, who scored over 2,000 points as a Grandview Bulldog, was the Suburban Blue Conference Player of the Year in her final two seasons as a prep player. She opens her collegiate career at Central Missouri this season.
Grandview went 19-7 last year and lost an upset to Jefferson City in a Class 5 district championship game. In Smith’s junior season, Grandview was 16-8 and won a district championship as Smith averaged 23 points and 6 rebounds per game.
There’s no easy way to replace that kind of production, and it would be unrealistic to expect just one player to step into the void left by Cierra Smith in the Bulldogs lineup, third-year head coach Brian Everett explained.
“It’s a collective effort and the girls really trust each other,” Everett said. “Every night it could be somebody different, but we have definite threats on offense and they find a way to get it done.”
Last week at the Winnetonka Invitational, Grandview came away with a fifth-place finish. Despite a loss to Park Hill to open the tournament, the Bulldogs pulled together two wins over Winnetonka and Platte County.
Both opponents had losing records last season, but players and coaches say the key to these early games is that the Bulldogs learn how to adapt to the team’s new makeup.
In the fifth-place game against Platte County, freshman Micah Kirkwood led Grandview in scoring with 10 points. Senior Ciaira Martinez added 8 points.
“This was about coming together on a defensive end. Even though we weren’t scoring we still found ways to stop them on defense,” Martinez said.
Two freshmen were in the starting lineup against Platte County and will gain valuable playing time as regular parts of the Bulldog rotation. Joining Kirkwood was freshman Lariah Tucker who added 4 points.
“The thing about this team is we have some seniors, but we also have those two freshmen that are really filling a big void for us. It’s just going to take some time for everyone to gel together,” Everett said.
There was an extra challenge tossed in against Platte County. Grandview was without one of its best athletes in senior Essence Kendall. That left other players needing to step up in new ways.
But that is all part of the early-season learning process.
“We had to box out and find ways to get rebounds over some taller, bigger kids,” Martinez said.
Grandview won the game, 27-22, through defense. A second half that saw both teams struggle offensively ended with Grandview holding on to a lead it established early in the game and closed out with late stops.
Grandview senior A’myah Bankston said she thought the team handled the early season trials well. In a late-game situation with a one-possession lead, she said the team was able to stay calm.
“I will say it teaches us how to play in the long run,” Bankston said. “With these situations, learning it early as a team and adjusting will help us in the future.”
With two turnovers on inbound plays, Bankston and Martinez mentioned that as something to work on. Once they clean up those details, the team has their goals set on pulling some upsets of their own this season.
“I think we were just learning how to play together because we just started and hopefully that can get us to a district championship,” Martinez said.
The team managed to reach its goal for the Winnetonka Invitational, at least, by winning two out of the three games they played. Grandview is now 3-2 overall.
This team is different from the last two seasons with Everett as head coach.
The team this year will depend on contributions from everybody.
“I think people may be underestimating what they can do,” Everett said. “As the freshmen get acclimated and they get chemistry with the seniors, we could surprise a lot of people.”