Derby, Maize fight to heated, historic split on the hardwood
Caleb Grill dribbled the length of the court, breaking the press, freed himself with a back cut and stepback. He fired a deep three to break the tie and make history.
With the shot, Grill became Maize’s first basketball player with 1,000 career points. With the Eagles’ eventual 72-59 win, the Maize seniors earned their first sweep over Derby. And with Grill’s 43 points, he set a career-high.
“It’s just a night I’ll probably remember for the rest of my life,” Grill said.
Grill said he could sense a big night coming in warmups. Of his about 35 shots, he said he missed two or three. That translated, no matter how tight the Derby defense was.
A few minutes after Grill’s historic three-pointer, he striked another in the face of Derby freshman Amari Thomas. The shot was so improbable, Thomas went to the other side of the court looking at his bench with his mouth ajar.
Even the Derby students had to respect what they were seeing.
Soon after the three, Grill dribbled in a half-court set, bounced to his left and drove the lane. It parted, and he hammered a tomahawk drunk to help cap a 25-7 third quarter.
“I just made my first couple shots, and after that it just felt like it was going in almost every since time,” Grill said.
Those types of nights aren’t uncommon, his coach and father Chris Grill said. During the summer AAU season when a shot clock is in play and the game comes more fluidly, Grill is able to get up and down and take over a game like he did Monday.
Most of Grill’s production came in the middle quarters. He hit 11 field goals, including four threes. The undefeated Eagles led by only a point at halftime against the 4-10 Panthers.
Grill’s 17-point third quarter ensured there wasn’t going to be an upset.
“I’m really happy for Caleb,” Chris Grill said. “This isn’t just a one or two-year deal. This is something he’s been working on since he was really little, as early as 3. ... He developed a passion for it and stuck with it. He finds a lot of extra time in the gym to make a night like this possible.”
Grill needed 21 points to eclipse 1,000. He more than doubled it, and many family members and friends were there to see it.
Afterward, on a night in which he was honored as a Kansas Shrine Bowl football player, Grill had trouble putting it all into words.
“It’s a really big accomplishment because this school has been open for a really long time,” he said. “I really don’t know what to say right now. It’s just an accomplishment I’ve dreamed about since I’ve been a freshman, hoping to break the school record some day. It’s been one of my goals, and it just feels like all my hard work has paid off.”